Some of the responses to the *womxn of the Wits Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) calling out a male member for rape show that patriarchy continues to reinforce itself in political spaces.
Last week, a womxn from the Wits EFFSC said she was raped by a member of its UJ branch. Another womxn came forward and said the accused had physically assaulted her. These accounts, and a statement put out by the womxn of the EFFSC calling on EFF and EFFSC structures to stand in solidarity for justice for womxn, both inside and outside political spaces, and for the party to take action against members who have allegedly attacked womxn comrades have rape apologists crawling out of their hovels.
The second womxn – who held a position of leadership in the party at the time – posted on Facebook saying the accused had physically assaulted her in front of two male EFFSC members. She alleges the men did nothing to intervene. She reported the incident to the branch and its chairperson at the time so that the accused could stop harming women of the constituency she led. The men maintained that the problem should be privately resolved. “This was a method of discipline, they regarded me not as a peer nor as a comrade, but as a subject. Their inaction was very much political,” she wrote.
The accused wrote a long and painful Facebook status defending himself of the two allegations, saying they have nothing to do with the EFF. “There is no basis for the EFF nor EFFSC to be dragged into my personal relationship,”he said. He questioned why the EFF and its structures are being attacked. He also said he is willing to declare his case in court.
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told The Daily Vox that the national body can only step in once they know that the EFFSC – which is an autonomous body – is unable to act or has acted wrongly.
He said the Wits EFF will advise the national structure of the action they will take to deal with the accusation at hand. “We must reiterate that there is no room whatsoever for women abuse in the EFF,” Ndlozi said.
Nyiko Shikwambane, a member of the Wits EFFSC said it’s shameful how lightly the accused’s defenders are responding to the rape accusation. “They have made it about the organisation and the protection of patriarchy over showing empathy with the victim herself.” She also said it’s not easy to accuse someone of rape. “It’s a traumatic invitation to the public into your private affairs. You are literally put on blast against slut shamers who are responding to an imaginary agenda,” she said.
It cant be right dat we make victims feel dat they imagined it all and It didn’t happen,we must condemn and shame perpetrators#WeBelieveHer
— Fighter Thabang (@PikokoThabang) July 5, 2017
A member of the UJ EFFSC tagged several womxn of the EFFSC leadership in a Facebook status where he called them “a group of witchcrafts masquerading as black radical feminists,” who want to destroy the EFF. He further said they used sex as a weapon to hypnotise leadership and abortion is their initiation.
The accusation that EFF womxn are witches who initiate each other through abortions is “a misogynistic biblical narrative as old as time itself,” Shikwambane said. She said this comment exposed their ignorance of womxn’s sexual rights and lack of concern for the issues that face womxn of the organisation.
Patriarchy is so unoriginal.The excuses for their toxic abuse & violence to women are the same:
— Simamkele Dlakavu (@simamkeleD) July 5, 2017
In response to slut-shaming, accusations of witchcraft and widespread disbelief of the abuse, womxn have showed support for each other under the hashtag #WeBelieveHer.
We are coming for all rapists and rape apologists. Every single one of you. #WeBelieveHer
— lol (@Chimurengs) July 4, 2017
*Editors’ note: this story has been updated with comment from the EFF national body.
*The term “womxn” is used intentionally to be inclusive of all femme identifying bodies, not just cisgendered women.