Trigger warning: this article contains descriptions of physical assault
On Monday (5 February) afternoon, protest action between the political collective Black First Land First (BLF) and an organised group with ANC affiliates known as ‘Defend Luthuli House’ reached boiling point. Two women were assaulted.
— Times LIVE (@TimesLIVE) February 5, 2018
The two groups clashed over recent calls to remove Jacob Zuma from the Presidency. The #HandsOffZuma protestors and members of the BLF were separated by police as tensions rose. Despite this, an attack on a bakkie transporting BLF supporters resulted in the assault of two women.
A man who has been identified as Thabiso Sentona, a branch secretary for the Johannesburg region of the ANC, forcibly removed two women from the bakkie. After that, Sentona proceeded to attack the elderly of the two, a woman named Olivia Mokete. Santona continued the assault even after Mokete fell to the ground.
The assault was caught on camera and Sentona has since been suspended from the ANC with immediate effect. He also handed himself over to the police yesterday. This afternoon, however, Sentona was released from jail after appearing in court as the woman did not lay a formal charge against him. This, despite the fact that there is clear evidence of him assaulting her on camera.
Olivia Mokete is currently laying a charge against Sentona at the Orange Farm police station to fight her case.
Jolidee Matongo, regional spokesperson for the ANC, told News24 Sentona has given the police his statement and the ANC is in the process of seeking disciplinary action.
‘He handed himself over to the police and gave them his statement… We are also in the process of instituting a disciplinary hearing,’ said Matongo.
‘We are an organisation that is supposed to be upholding the rule of law and we are supposed to protect people even if they don’t hold the same view as ours. We are disappointed, hence we took the decision to suspend him with immediate effect.’
The ANC commented on the incident, saying: ‘As the ANC in Jo’burg, we strongly condemn any acts of violence against any person, more so women. The ANC Greater Jo’burg does not subscribe to the notion of people violently assaulting those who hold contrasting political views.’
— #Khawuleza #BeTheRenewal (@MYANC) February 5, 2018
Gender-based violence remains one of the key issues affecting the entire country. Abuse, harassment and assault against women is rife. The assault of Olivia Mokete is yet another incident in a string of horrifying gender-based attacks and murders in the last few years that demands our society thinks long and hard about how we treat women.
Gauteng’s MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane released a statement condemning the attack. ‘I am deeply concerned about such barbaric behaviour‚ more especially meted out by a person of his stature who is expected to champion the rights of women in the province‚ particularly within his constituency‚’ Nkosi-Malobane said of the assault.
The assault of a woman outside Luthuli House confirms the fact that South Africa is a very unsafe place for women…. The sight of @SAPS members watching the assault also confirms how most don't care for women.
— Vuyo Mrashula (@vmrashula) February 5, 2018
The Commission for Gender Equality has also commented on the assault. The CGE reiterated that the violence against women remains unchecked. ‘The commission is also shocked that nobody came to the assistance of a powerless and helpless woman who was being assaulted even while lying on the ground‚’ the rights body said in a statement released late on Monday. ‘The CGE is equally worried that there was a lack of police action to either stop the beating or apprehend the perpetrator of this heinous crime.’
Sentona assaulted her as spectators and police stood by and did nothing. It’s far from the first time this has happened, too. Even more disturbing: not a single person asked for Mokete’s name.
HARSH ACTION MUST BE METED AGAINST WOMAN ABUSER OUTSIDE LUTHULI HOUSE DEPT OF WOMEN
The Department of Women would like to condemn the upsetting image of a man; alleged to be Thabiso Setona, an ANC Branch Secretary in the Inner City assaulting a woman outside Luthuli House.
— Dept of Women, Youth, Persons with Disabilities (@DWYPD_ZA) February 5, 2018
Nobody asked ifMokete, as a human being, deserving of dignity and care, was okay or needed medical assistance. Everybody captured in the footage continued as usual as she scrambled to get up after being repeatedly kicked on the ground. It reflects a deep cultural issue of the most marginalised in our society: black women, being invisibilised when we face injustice on all sides.
The widespread omission of Mokete’s identity in media is telling of how much we erase black women, even when we’re defenceless and victimised on the ground.
The CGE revealed in their statement that over 180 000 cases of assault were reported in 2016, and know the groups disproportionately affected by violence, the majority of these cases were women.
SONA has been postponed, but we can only hope this will be a wake-up call to government to start responding to gender-based violence with more than just empty promises in policies created to protect us. Now’s the time for action – we’re done talking.
Want to get involved and stand up against gender-based violence?
The Commission for Gender Equality’s (CGE) legal department directly deals with tackling gender discrimination, and contribute to shaping the policies that affect the lives of South African women.
You can help lobby for justice for Mokete– or for anyone (including yourself) who has been affected by gender-based violence. If you’ve witnessed an assault or crime, like the one at Luthuli House, you can report it to CGE and throw your voice into the cry for justice.
The commission’s legal department has been set up to:
- Investigate gender-related complaints.
- Evaluate laws, customs, practices and Indigenous law, personal and family law affecting gender equality or status of women that are in force or proposed by Parliament.
- Recommend to Parliament the adoption of laws that will promote gender equality and status of women.
- Monitor compliance with international conventions, covenants and International Charters acceded and ratified by the government that have a bearing on the object of the CGE.
- Make a contribution to the law-making process, especially in laws that affect women adversely and have a bearing on gender equality in South Africa.
The CGE encourages everyone to report on acts of gender-based violence and abuse – use this toll-free number: 0800 007 709.
Why not add your voice to the drive to end gender-based violence and report the incident? Together, we can make a difference.
Read more news
Read more #COSMOTalks
If you’ve been a victim of abuse, click here to find out how you can get help.