The undersigned organisations welcome the news that on Wednesday the 25th, Clayson Monyela withdrew his tweet of last week that he prayed the perpetrators of the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl, would “find like-minded monsters in jail to give them a taste of their own medicine.” His withdrawal – over Twitter – stated, “As a father, the actions of those 7 men anger me. But praying 4 them to get a taste of their medicine was wrong. I withdraw that.”
We acknowledge that the types of sentiments he first expressed are shared by numerous other South Africans, and that as a society, despite our progressive constitution, we often fall into a trap of blame and revenge. This only fuels further violence. Instead we need to grapple with dynamics in our society (like damaging beliefs about ‘manhood’ and power) that are behind horrific crimes such as that reported last week. A critical – but often difficult – point is that the well-being of our prisoners is thoroughly connected to the well-being of the rest of us. Indeed these are topics on which we urgently require discussion and understanding as we seek to end the violence that so mars our society. That the issue has been raised through Clayson Monyela’s statement on Twitter, provides a positive opportunity for precisely this.
To help encourage further discourse on these issues, we will endeavour to engage Mr. Monyela through a meeting. We also urge Mr. Monyela to make a public statement, in addition to the short retraction made over Twitter, reaffirming what our Constitution makes clear—that government has a duty to ensure that our prisons guarantee the safety, wellbeing and dignity of all those that are incarcerated.
JOINT PRESS STATEMENT
Civil society organisations call for Head of Public Diplomacy, Clayson Monyela, to retract his statement made on 18 April, 2012 regarding the Braamfischerville rape case.
25 April, 2012
On the 18th April, South Africa’s Head of Public Diplomacy, Clayson Monyela “prayed” for the rape in prison of a group of boys and men charged with gang-raping a 17-year-old girl. Using Twitter on 18 April, Mr. Monyela said he would be “praying for the seven rapists to find like-minded monsters in jail to give them a taste of their own medicine.” Mr. Monyela’s statement is dangerous, misguided, and inconsistent with South Africa’s Constitution and laws.
The Braamfischerville rape of a mentally disabled teenage girl by seven men and boys has rightly been the subject of recent media furor. The cell phone video of the assault went viral throughout social media networks, quickly becoming the shame and concern of the nation.
Subsequent media coverage has pointed to the failure of multiple state actors, and patriarchal social norms have been highlighted as contributing to the incidence of sexual violence. Some commentary on the rape case, sadly, has taken on a misguided, retributive and vengeful tone.
Outrage at this rape case has rightly pointed to the unacceptable levels of sexual violence that continue to plague our country. SAPS received reports of well over 60,000 rape and sexual assault cases last year alone. A 2009 study by the Medical Research Council found that one in four SA men acknowledged having raped a woman. Alarmingly, men who are physically violent toward women were twice as likely to be HIV-positive and less likely to use condoms.
The crime of sexual assault and rape of inmates, whether by inmates or correctional officials, violates their Constitutional right to human dignity, and their right to be free from violence. These acts also perpetuate the cycle of violence.
Mr. Monyela’s statement dehumanizes the perpetrators of the heartbreaking crime committed in Braamfischerville. Violence begets violence, and this also applies when discussing the issue of prison rape. Offenders are branded as perpetrators going in to prison, but can quickly become victim to sexual abuse, often on the first night of incarceration. This is also true of remand detainees, 14% of whom are youth, all of whose guilt or innocence has yet to be determined through trial.
Sexual abuse that occurs in correctional facilities reflects and reinforces men’s understanding of sex as an expression of male dominance. Sexual violence and rigid gender roles that are enforced inside detention centres contribute to the abuse of women, men and children and the spread of HIV outside of detention, when inmates are released.
Offenders’ experiences do not occur in isolation. Each year, over 360 000 inmates circulate in/out of South Africa’s prisons, and it is estimated that there is an 80% recidivism rate. Most inmates will return to their communities, and many will end up returning to prison. The connection is clear: what happens to inmates does not stay in prisons, it impacts everyone. Violence in prison fuels future violence, inside and beyond prison walls.
Andile Lungisa, Chairman, National Youth Development Agency, responding to the Braamfischerville case, said: “It is beyond human comprehension what would (motivate) any human being to engage in such an inhumane act of violence, damaging the dignity of another human being in this manner.” This statement is no less true when discussing the rape of an inmate in prison. As a high-level official in South Africa’s diplomatic arm, Mr. Monyela has a heightened duty to speak responsibly and not use his leadership position to fuel violence, in any form.
The undersigned organisations work to promote the protection of inmate health and rights and call for Mr. Monyela to publically retract his statement on or before 1 May 2012.
For additional information, please contact:
- Sonke Gender Justice
- Just Detention International
- Wits Justice Project
- LINALI Consulting – Protecting Children’s Rights
- Restorative Justice Centre
- Childline South Africa