I have just finished reading Redi Tlhabi’s novel, “Endings & beginnings”. In her novel she talks about growing up in Soweto during the apartheid era, her father’s gruesome murder and her unlikely friendship with a gangster.
Here’s an extract from her novel:
“Violation of women and girls was commonplace in the late eighties and early nineties. Yet as horrendous as it was, the community seemed to treat rape as if it were just some minor inconvenience. It wasn’t uncommon for a young woman to be walking down the street and for someone, even another woman, to point at her and snigger, “Phela, this one got raped by so-and-so”. So-and-so would be a well-known thug still roaming the streets without a care in the world.
Our neighbour, Tokai, was in her early forties and was another of our village drunks. I once witnessed a group of young boys luring her to a house not far from my home. She was so drunk she could never have found her way home, and the boys assured onlookers that they were helping her home. Yet I clearly saw them take her in a different direction. The next morning I heard that Tokai has been found naked on a street corner and some little boys had had sex with her – not raped her, simply had sex with her! That it was treated as a joke left me deeply disturbed. People would say matter-of-factly that Tokai should stop drinking, but no one ever suggested that she deserved justice or that the boys should be punished. The implication was that drunken women deserved abuse, yet all around us drunken men who were abusive to their families were always helped home when they were too drunk to manage – and one ever considered harming them.
The ‘in’ thing among young thugs then was jackrolling. A group of guys would stumble upon a woman and kidnap her in broad daylight. She would then be repeatedly raped for as long as her captors felt like it, and only when they were good and ready would they let her go. More ‘charitable’ rapists might give her a lift back or walk her home. From then on, this girl was marked in the community.”