Open letter to the ANC Women’s League on case of former Youth League leader, Patrick Wisani, who sjambokked girlfriend to death

The court hearing of Patrick Wisani, the 30-year old chairperson of the ANC Youth League in inner-city Johannesburg and former community policing forum member in the area, who is accused of sjambokking his girlfriend to death last year is set to resume at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court this morning (25 February 2016).

Civil society organisations, POWA, Awethu – a People’s Platform for Social Justice, SACBC Justice and Peace and Sonke Gender Justice have written an open letter to the ANC Women’s League president, Ms Bathabile Dlamini and the spokesperson of the league in Gauteng, demanding answers on steps the league will take in ensuring that justice is served in the case. Read the full letter below:

Good day

On 5 September 2015, Mr Patrick Wisani, an ANC Youth League Zonal Chairperson in Johannesburg, allegedly beat his partner, Nosipho Madleleni, to death with a sjambok and a broomstick in Yeoville, Johannesburg. He was released on bail on 21 September under strict conditions, including that he may not enter Yeoville where he might interfere with the investigation into the case.

The ANCYL put out a statement saying that they did not support any violence against women and encouraging a full investigation into the case. Information at our disposal is that ANC members in the Yeoville area were instructed not to go to the court hearings, either in support of or in opposition to Mr Wisani. We are also advised that the ANC Gauteng agreed that Mr Wisani should be suspended from the ANC until the case was over.

However, we were also told that the suspension was not imposed, subject to Mr Wisani recusing himself from all ANC and Alliance activities until the conclusion of the case. However, the letter he was supposed to have written had not been received by the ANC Johannesburg Region by the time he appeared in court on 21 January this year.

At that hearing, an additional charge was laid against Mr Wisani, that of rape as it was discovered that the genital area of the deceased was bleeding heavily, leading the investigators to believe that she had been raped using either the broomstick or the sjambok.

Also at that hearing, Mr Wisani requested that his bail conditions be relaxed, i.e that he be allowed to enter Yeoville, to ‘allow him to attend … branch meetings and enable him to assist in election campaigns’, a strange request from a man who had agreed to recuse himself from all ANC activities. The bail relaxation request was not granted for technical reasons and he appears in court again on Thursday 25 February at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court.

Subsequent to this, we have learned, Mr Wisani was again prevailed upon by the ANC region and province to recuse himself from ANC activities, under threat of having his suspension enforced. He has since signed a letter recusing himself, although he does not seem to be honouring his commitment, nor his bail conditions, as it is rumoured that he has been seen in Yeoville in the vicinity of ANC branch meetings.

On 9 September, after Mr Wisani had handed himself over to the police, an article on the matter appeared in The Star in which it was said that:

The allegations are likely to be deemed serious by the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL), under its president and Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini.

Last month, on Women’s Day, Dlamini vowed to deal with men who abused women and children. “Men must think twice before they abuse women in South Africa. We are going to mobilise women to fight all forms of abuse. We are also going to show them that the law is not expensive,” she said speaking at an event in Sasolburg, in the Free State.

President Jacob Zuma and his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, were among those present when Dlamini made the vow. She added that she would get legal support for women who survived abuse.

On 13 September, in a further report on the case, the following appeared:

The ANC Women’s League in the province has also come out strongly in condemning the murder while saying it also respects judicial processes. Gauteng women’s league spokeswoman Jacqui Mofokeng said the league has assigned regional executive committee members to meet with the slain woman’s family.

“We welcome the statement of the ANCYL and we will also be on their side, especially because Patrick Wisani is one of our own, which is even worse,” she said.

“Discipline starts with us (as the ANC) and we condemn whatever he did and we say it should never happen to anyone and we don’t want it to happen to any other person.”

Mofokeng said domestic violence was insidious as she demanded answers as to how Wisani was apparently able to sjambok his girlfriend to death. She added she hoped these were answers the court would be able to give. “How can someone be killed with a sjambok, and how long did this thing (go on) … how long has the man been beating a woman with a sjambok that she actually died?” she asked. “The most important thing is, why was there a killing? There is no man, and nobody, who has the right to do that. Patriarchal tendencies should be nipped in the bud for a young man.”

Two days later, on 15 September, the ANCWL commented briefly on the Wisani case in a report on the killing of musician Nonkululeko “Flabba” Habedi by his partner, Sindisiwe Manqele.

The report read:

The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) on Tuesday called on all South Africans to tackle gender-based violence in the wake of the court appearance of Sindisiwe Manqele, the woman accused of killing former Hip Hop rapper Nonkululeko “Flabba” Habedi.

Manqele is expected to give evidence in her defence on Tuesday in the High Court sitting in the Randburg Magistrates’ Court. The ANCWL said it “welcomed” the court proceedings against Manqele, who was allegedly in a relationship with the rapper of the famed Skwatta Kamp group.

“It is also with great concern and disappointment to learn of the case against one of our ANC Youth Leader, Mr. Patrick Wisani, Branch Chairperson for ANCYL, who allegedly beat his girlfriend to death with a sjambok,” said the league in a statement issued by its Secretary-General Meokgo Matuba.

The ANCWL said it remained “resolute and unshaken” in the belief of a society free from all kinds of abuse, crime and acts of injustice against any form of human kind. “We should take lead at the front through noble illustrations, even if such acts are committed by our very own leaders or members of the African National Congress.”

We are very concerned about the high levels of GBV in Yeoville Bellevue, and indeed the inner city of Johannesburg as whole. We know that the media reports of such cases are but a tip of the iceberg and that many women do not even lay charges when they have been brutalised. Even where they do, they are unlikely to attract the kind of attention that a Reeva Steenkamp or a Dolly Tshabalala does. The plight of ordinary women does not seem to be as important as that of celebrity figures.

Patrick Wisani was an ANC and ANCYL member. His partner was said to be in the ANCYL as well. Presumably this means she was an ANC member as well. We would therefore like to ask the following questions:

  1. Did the Women’s League finally meet with the family of Nosipho Madleleni and what was the outcome (we ask without wishing you to break confidentialities)?
  2. Is the Women’s League going to provide legal support for the family of Madleleni? We are aware that this is a criminal, not a civil case, so a lawyer is not needed to argue in court on behalf of the family, but it would obviously be important for the family to receive legal support and advice, especially if they at any point become concerned about whether justice will be seen to be done.
  3. Is the ANCWL going to “mobilise women to fight all forms of abuse” in this case? Eg, is the ANCWL going to picket outside the court and sit in on the proceedings, as they did with the Reeva Steenkamp case and others? We have picketed outside the court on two occasions during Mr Wisani’s court appearances and we were not aware of the presence of the ANCWL.
  4. Wisani applied for bail relaxation to undertake political work in Yeoville. Is the ANCWL happy with this and with the rumours that Wisani has been seen in Yeoville?
  5. Apparently Madleleni’s twin sister is to give evidence, as is another witness, also a woman. It seems that there are efforts to prevent them giving evidence. Will the ANCWL intervene to give support to these witnesses so that they can give evidence without fearing for their lives?
  6. The SAPS and the NPA appear to be doing a good job. This is evidenced by their adding the charge of rape to the case, indicating that they are taking the issue seriously. But has the ANCWL consulted with the SAPS to find out what progress they are making and to encourage them to pursue the case diligently and professionally in honour of the memory of Ms Madleleni?
  7. Has any work been done by the ANCWL to find out Wisani’s history of violence against women, if any? We have heard of at least two cases in which he was involved in a serious assault on women on two different occasions.
  8. Has the ANCWL done any work in the Yeoville neighbourhood subsequent to the murder? The people of Yeoville, the women of Yeoville, must be shaken by this murder, especially given that the perpetrator is a supposed leader in the community. Who can they trust if they cannot trust leaders, if they can’t trust people who represent the ANC, a party with a commitment to gender equality and an end to gender violence? Is the ANCWL doing anything to calm people down and to help them to mobilise against the ongoing GBV taking place in the area?

There are many more questions that arise in relation to this and similar incidents. However, we will restrict ourselves to these for the moment. May we please ask that you respond as urgently as possible and that the ANCWL applies its mind to some of the issues we have raised in relation to this specific case? It is going to court again on 25 February and there is no telling how quickly it will be wrapped up. Some of the issues we have raised are crucial to the process of monitoring developments and ensuring that justice is seen to be done.