Dear Editor

Conjurer’s tricks

The fat, cash-laden con-artist depicted on the cover of your March edition (nose197) looked to me less like a musical conductor and more like a prestidigitator, but then you would have written “Hey Presto” instead of just “Presto”. Given the font size this must be Noseweek’s biggest-ever typo, hey?

Stephen Pain

Typo? A terminological inexactitude writ large enough for you to have noticed it. “Presto”, a musical directive, given by tradition in Italian to indicate a fast tempo. – Ed.

Guptagate a devastating setback

Guptagate continues to make banner headlines. But whether or not President Jacob Zuma lied (again) is the wrong question. With the ANC continuing to back him, the real question is: are we as a nation utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency?

The unravelling of Guptagate reads like a textbook of treachery. It’s been a disillusioning experience for all South Africans. Trust in the government declines sharply, as cynicism towards politics and public figures increases. The cumulative impact is a legacy of suspicion and distrust [and licence]. It has come to represent the lawless power of a lawless people.

All it takes is the incantation of magic words like “I am in charge” and “Only I appoint cabinet ministers”, in order to inure yourself from accountability for just about any malfeasance. Lying to the populace is a clear betrayal of trust and screams for recognition as the most impeachable offence of our elected leaders.

Guptagate is Shakespearian tragedy of epic proportions – an apt metaphor to describe the destructive powers of corruption and how it eats away at the institutions of democracy. The assault on the rule of law is a devastating setback for our constitutional order.

Farouk Araie

Bobroffs, purveyors of dark arts

I have read, ad nauseum, in your august journal, of the dastardly and corrupt dealings of those reprobates the Bobroffs. So imagine my delight when I read in the Sunday Times that an Interpol red notice had been issued for their arrest and that extradition proceedings have been initiated by the Hawks to have them returned from Australia.

Whilst this is indeed good news, what irks is that for 40 years this diabolical duo have fleeced their clients and for years you have broadcast their misdeeds but still they were able to amass millions abroad with apparent impunity. And then allowed to skip the country with as much impunity.

Stephen Jeffries
Cape Town

Not all lawyers are lowlife!

The introductory paragraph to Jack Lundin’s report on the legal battle between Nedbank and its erstwhile attorneys (“Dog eat dog,” nose198) is, to say the least, reprehensible and uncalled-for with regard to the many attorneys who remain honest and hard-working. Believe me, there are still many of us who have never stolen from or importuned a client, and who regularly assist clients in need without payment.

I have been a Noseweek reader for years, but I am offended because in the close-on-50 years I have been in practice I have never seen myself or my colleagues in general as “less than human… heartless… money-grubbing”. How about an apology?

Herman Smit

If most attorneys were honest, our legal system would not be in the catastrophic state it is today, denying ordinary citizens access to justice. Your letter comes as dew in the desert. On reconsideration, I concede our tongue-in-cheek introductory paragraph was unnecessarily crude and you and your honest colleagues are entitled to an apology, here tendered. – Ed.

Prof commended on his patience

Professor Ulrich van der Heyden, visiting professor to Unisa, was far too patient and accommodating with both the arrogant and inept South African Embassy in Berlin and the incompetent and useless staff at Unisa (“Kafka in SA”, noses194 &197). 

I would have told the lot of them to f**k off and stick their bureaucratic forms where the sun don’t shine!

And, after all Bheki Mashile’s ramblings and complaints about the government and the ruling party over the years in his column, he still insists (in nose197) on voting for these morons?

If you want things to change and improve, then for heaven’s sake, vote for anybody but the ANC. What these guys need more than anything else is a wake-up call.

Nick McConnell

Gone off Mashile

I welcomed the addition to Noseweek of a black columnist. When Bheki Mashile started out, the perspective of a USA-raised, SA-born black man returned and now in possession of a BEEE /land-reform dished-out farm… the experiences thereof described in reasonable English, seemed compelling. Occasionally, his pieces have been mildly amusing, but rarely stimulated either sympathy for his circumstances… or much admiration for his intellectual insight.

Most of Mashile’s offerings over the past year at least have seemed dashed-off at the last minute, in pursuit of payment rather than any serious attempt to grow an audience in a publication read by the intelligentsia.

I suspect he may have been equally unsuccessful in growing anything more productive on that free farm.
His last column (nose197) showed him up for who he really is. I prefer not to use epithets to describe persons who trip themselves up in the hope that several rereadings of their own words, might eventually give them that “light-bulb” moment. Read, Bheki, read.

I, for one, consider it time for a new black voice to be heard, one who has something to offer this readership. Or is the quest for a salient black intellectual too much to ask for?

Ingrid Luyt

Noseweek writers must be prepared to take as good as we dish out. And I am confident Bheki is strong enough to ride the backwash of the waves he causes. He might even do the rereading you suggest. – Ed.

A way to redistribute wealth

Harold Strachan notes that redistribution of wealth is the only way forward for our troubled country. A practical way to begin addressing this is for those of us who employ others to close the wage gap.

It is far too common for people who understand and even contribute to the argument for egalitarianism to pay their domestic worker, gardener, nanny, factory or shop workers as little as they can get away with. Many employers don’t factor in transport, which costs a fortune, and don’t realise that many poor people who are employed are supporting up to 12 unemployed relatives.

Dawn Garisch
Cape Town

• Dear old Harold! Finally, age has conquered reason, and he is back to his fiery youth! Now he proposes that the “Class War” scorpion, riding across the river on the back of the “Capital” frog, sting him.

Of course we all, together, plunge to our joint demise but, after all, this is the Marxist nature.

Boris Yawitch
Riviera, Johannesburg

On a wing and a prayer

In January I took the plunge. Over the years I’d rush out to get my Noseweek as soon as I heard the tantalising radio ads but was often disappointed to find it was not yet available in the stores. I would chide myself that I have to subscribe.

Eventually in January I subscribed to both Noseweek and City Press (also elusive in the stores). Today my Noseweek was handed to me by a smiling Jehovah’s Witness who had picked it up on my front lawn. What a luxury to have the magazine tantalisingly beckoning, giving me the impetus to get my chores out of the way. Then, I get a call from City Press to say that, because I subscribed, I’d won a ticket to the J&B Met in the posh tent and now I read in the March Noseweek that I’ve won a pack of Ken Forrester wines. Ahhh this is the life!

And, as if this isn’t enough, we read about Bobroff & co among other local scandals, knowing Noseweek already made the discoveries years ago. Thank you!

Noy Pullen

Psychologists take a stand

The staggering statistics on murder, rape and violence against women make us all feel angry, fearful and unsettled and are a reminder of the pervasive and chronic gender violence in our society.

As therapists dealing with the consequences, we are acutely aware of the psychological cost to individuals, families and communities. But our role is limited both in terms of what we can do and the number of people we can reach. Our various positions of privilege also silence us: we are bound by confidentiality. But, as the saying goes, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.” Our primary role lies in becoming aware of what’s going on it our own minds and containing the painful feelings that arise in response to these brutalities. Yet it is no longer enough to make our voices heard in our consulting rooms. We must take a stand as a profession.

Despite our constitution, patriarchal attitudes not only abound, but are condoned – by our president, by numerous cultural and religious institutions and practices, by popular culture, by social media memes and pictures, in bars, around dinner tables, and in bedrooms. Women and girls in poorer communities are more vulnerable to violence and have less access to resources, but gender-based violence exists across race and class.     

We need better policing – the family of recent murder victim found dead in a Khyalitsha communal toilet, Sinoxolo Mafevuka, was not even contacted by the police until the deputy minister visited the area more than a week after the incident. 

We need a more efficient justice system; political leadership; better education; and more men and women to speak out against this.

We have to ensure that gender-based violence stops with each and every one of us – in the language we use, the jokes we tell, the institutions we support, the way women are represented in the media, the way we raise our children. All behaviour, speech and representation that trivialise gender-based violence should be recognised as hate speech.

We call for services to support parents and victims, as well as for psycho-educational programmes to be incorporated into the Life Orientation curriculum.

We also need interventions for children who are first-time perpetrators of sexual violence. Mental health services must be prioritised.

We can no longer remain silent and passive. We call on all our colleagues and allied professions to add their voices to ours, to end this scourge.  

Cape Town
Self Psychology Group

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Submitted by : Josie Rowe-setz of Dargle on 2016-04-28 12:02:13
The extent of the damage that sexual assault causes is incalculable. In 2011, WHO noted that over 150 million women and girls worldwide reported sexual assault. Those are the reported cases and often don’t include war rape or intimate partner rape. Estimates suggest that less than one in nine cases of rape are actually reported, and very very few cases of sexual assaults such as groping, sexual intimidation and verbal sexual assault are ever reported – females know that this is not illegal and reporting such harassment will get them nowhere. South African women live with much higher rates of harassment, assault and rape than the global average, or even some countries at war.
Xhosa women in the Eastern Cape report that they feel as if they are viewed by men as a set of sexual organs which men are entitled to access. In 2011, extensive research with 1738 men found 37 per cent of South African men admitted to having perpetrated sexual assault at some point in their lives and that approximately 75 per cent of those who had committed sexual assault had first raped as teenagers. Just over 45 per cent of these men reported feeling no guilt. Many rapists are repeat offenders and see rape as a solution to boredom (entertainment), their right (entitlement), part of being a man (gang initiation or masculine identity) or simply because a female has displeased him in some way (corrective punishment). Toxic masculinity prevails- there is a gender hierarchy in South Africa where men dominate and control of girls and women is the norm. When men buy in to this definition of masculinity, and identify with it, key values in such a toxic masculine identity are heterosexuality (so lesbians and gay men are targeted), strength, being tough (no empathy for victim) and control of women and girls. It is easy for such men in South Africa to use sexual and physical violence to demonstrate such control, and the age and suffering of the victim are not considered relevant. Men, according to one study, rape to bolster masculine pride. The discussion that locates propensity to male violence against women in the fact of poverty simply obscures the fact that the environment in poverty in South Africa condones rape as an outlet for male feelings of discontent and despair. Feeling despairing? Well, there’s always a women more vulnerable than you to make you feel better.
The percentage of South African men who are strongly accepting of sexual violence against girls and women is extremely high by international norms. These views are so pervasive in South Africa that many women hold the same opinions. Low reporting rates, of even the most aggressive assaults, and the inverse relationship between rape frequency and punishment severity, coupled with the fact that imprisonment is an uncommon result for a rapist and sentences light, means that 53,9 percent of all convicted rapists in South Africa are serial rape offenders. One researcher concluded in 1990 that as sexism and toxic masculinity increased in South Africa, the number of rapes would increase. In 1990, the number of reported rapes was 390 000. Currently, reported rapes are over 500,000 per annum and increase every year. If the assumption that the reporting ratio is one in every nine rapes, this means that over 4,5 million women and girls are raped annually. This sounds like an epidemic worse than HIV/AIDS and TB put together.
The impact of all sexual assault is very severe on women, girls, families and the national cost of health services. The impact of rape is even more significant. Because this context - where women and girls are typically viewed as providers of sexual services with no rights of refusal and where there are low reporting and conviction rates significantly increases the likelihood of sexual assault- means that the incidence and prevalence of rape is extremely high and extremely costly for South African society.
From a humanitarian point of view, there can be little doubt that to continue to ignore the issue is tantamount to abandoning South African women and girls to a life experienced as being commodities for predatory males. This has huge psychological and emotional effects. Over 75 percent of rape victims experience chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which, if left untreated as it often is in South Africa, results in an extremely poor quality of life as well as mental health and emotional health problems which affect the children of victims in major ways. From a physical perspective, this significantly exacerbates the spread of HIV and AIDS, and massively increases the cost of treatment for men, women and children alike. The spread of STDs and the increasing resistance of some of the strains to antibiotics results in more expensive treatment being needed. A massive proportion of the health budget is linked to rape and the consequences of rape. Nothing at all is linked to prevention strategies.
When sexual assault often includes babies of two years old, and women of 90, it is no longer credible to categorise rape and sexual assault as linked to desire. It is only possible to link it to a conviction that dominant males demonstrate masculinity through control of female bodies, as and when they please.

So I have some questions. First, although South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world for a country not at war, there is no national support programme offered to victims. What does this say about how we value women and girls lives and health?
Second, for any other group of people, this level of assault would be termed a crime against humanity. If this group were black, Jewish, Kurdish, Tutsi, there would be a global outcry. If any group anywhere in the world was treated as women are in Saudi, the country would be ostracised as a slave based society. As yet, there is no outcry. So I ask, where is justice for women and girls in South Africa? Where are the voices of the good men? And why is this issue not central on all political party social agenda?
Until the politics of violence are addressed in meaningful ways with meaningful budgets from the national fiscus; until preventative programmes are implemented throughout all schools for boys and girls that mitigate beliefs in toxic masculine and victimised feminine roles; until the brutal face of sexual assault as rape is a mainstream matter with immediate response; until then, we will pay the price for rape as will our children and our children’s children. We will pay in money, in self-respect and in the results of a vicious subjugation of women and girls purely on the basis of gender. This cannot be what most of us want. People, we need to talk. Soon.


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