Only one of multiple aggressors

The article below appeared in The Star, 23 November 2016

On Monday, Judge Mohamed Ismail, in the high court in Randburg, found former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) official Patrick Wisani guilty of murdering his girlfriend Nosipho Mandleleni by beating her to death with a sjambok and a broomstick on the night of Saturday September 5, 2015.

Wisani was also found guilty of assault­ing Mandleleni’s twin sister Siphokazi and a friend of hers in an attempt to deter them from giving evidence. In addition, he was found guilty of intimidating witnesses in the case.

Sentencing will take place on Monday also in the high court in Randburg.

At the time of the murder, Wisani was ANCYL chairman for the Joburg inner city and had also been a member of the Yeoville community policing forum.

According to statements made to the media by friends of the couple, Wisani had previously assaulted Mandleleni who, according to this newspaper, “had tried to lay assault charges against Wisani in the past”.

Other media reported that he had also once assaulted another woman at a bar so brutally that she ended up in a coma, although charges in that case were dropped until the victim came forward as a result of the publicity generated by the murder case.

Throughout the 14-month trial, a coali­tion of civil society organisations compris­ing Sonke Gender Justice, Awethu!, Peace and Justice, Lawyers for Human Rights, People Opposing Women Abuse, and the Inner City Women’s Forum monitored the case closely to make sure Wisani was indeed held to account and that Nosipho Mandleleni and her family received some measure of justice.

We welcome the court ruling and hope it sends a clear deterrent message that vio­lence against women will not be tolerated.

We reiterate our condolences to Nosipho’s family for whom a guilty sen­tence is little consolation for their loss.

However, without the active monitoring of the case by civil society organisations and community members, it is uncertain whether this verdict would have been handed down at all.

Judge Louw, initially appointed to pre­side over the case, proved himself wholly incapable of the task at hand.

He was often unable to remember the basic facts, referring to the accused as the defendant.

Only when the defence attorney and the prosecutor both threatened to petition the judge to recuse himself did Judge Louw step down.

We welcome and acknowledge the very different tone set in the court by Judge Ismail, who took the case seriously and applied his mind throughout.

Sonke has long held that public figures influence social norms and so shape our values and priorities.

For this reason, Sonke has consistently held public figures accountable when they violate women’s rights or use, promote or condone violence.

Wisani’s conviction demonstrates that concerted community action can expedite justice for survivors of violence and the families struggling with grief in the wake of domestic and sexual violence homicide.

Patrick Wisani is one of tens of thou­sands of men who have perpetrated vio­lence against women in South Africa in the past year.

To deal with this crisis of violence will require a concerted effort by the govern­ment at all levels to address the causes of domestic and sexual violence.

For this reason, Sonke has been calling on the government to develop and imple­ment a fully costed national plan that provides vital services to survivors, holds perpetrators to account and prevents vio­lence before it happens.

Only when South Africa makes this commitment to ending violence will we begin to make progress in achieving our constitutional imperative of ensuring everyone’s physical integrity and achiev­ing full equality between women and men.

To help end the abuse

A positive outcome of the Wisani case was the reaction by the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), said Ariane Nevin, a policy development and advocacy fellow at Sonke Gender Justice.

ANCYL spokesperson Mbali Hlophe condemned the killing, saying the organisation did “not tolerate any form of abuse whether it was committed and perpetuated by a member or not”.

Hlophe also recognised that it was the “patriarchal, chauvinist mentality” of some men that was a cause of such violence, as it contributed to them treating women as “objects to use and abuse as they please”.

Research conducted by Sonke Gender Justice shows a growing number of men are concerned about gender-based violence in their communities and want to be part of positive change.

Sonke responded to these findings with programmes such as the UN-sponsored One Man Can (OMC), which supports men’s convictions that a more equitable world is possible.

Sonke’s research revealed that in the weeks following participation in OMC activities, 25 percent of respondents sought voluntary counselling, 50 percent reported an act of gender-based violence, and more than 80 percent talked to friends or family members about gender issues.