Sonke calls for apology and retraction from Adv Mpumlwana for his defence of Grace Mugabe’s use of violence

According to the Optimus Foundation Study, South Africa,1 three children are killed every day in South Africa. According to the Medical Research Council, a woman dies at the hands of her intimate partner every eight hours.

During Women’s Month and in the context of such extraordinarily high levels of violence against women and children in South Africa, it is shocking and offensive that an MP could attempt to justify the brutality of Grace Mugabe’s actions when she allegedly beat a young South African woman with an electrical cord last week.

Zimbabwe’s first lady allegedly beat 20 year-old Gabriella Engles with such force that the young woman required 14 stitches. Mugabe escaped justice when she was granted diplomatic immunity and fled to Zimbabwe. ANC MP, Adv Loyiso Mpumlwana came to her defence, saying that such beatings are part of “African culture”.

According to Adv Loyiso Mpumlwana, MP: “…She [Grace] finds these two boys with about two or three girls, sleeping. She is angry and beats the girls up. It is expected in the African culture. The other girls ran away and this one was unfortunate to get a beating (sic).”

The justification that African culture allows for beatings is not only inappropriate (there can be no justification for violence), it is historically incorrect.

There is strong evidence to show that beating of young people and children followed the slave trade and South Africa’s colonisation by the English, and is not inherent to African culture.2

In contrast to minister Mpumlwana’s statements, proverbs in African languages put into question the claim that hitting children is part of African culture. For example the Zulu proverb, which states:

Induku ayiwakhi umuzi (beatings don’t build a home)

Most cultures have at some point claimed that their culture allows for the use of corporal punishment or violence. The argument therefore that pits one culture against another, for or against corporal punishment, is also inaccurate. Our democracy has emerged from a history of state-sanctioned violence, and in this context the use of corporal punishment and violence have became entrenched in all races.

Since it’s founding in 2006, Sonke has been working with parents to end violence against children and to promote child rights and non-violent and positive parenting. We advocate for the end to corporal punishment in all spaces in South Africa.

Sonke Gender Justice demands:

  • An apology and retraction by Adv Loyiso Mpumlwana, MP.
  • A commitment from Parliament to hold their members to account over the use of language, which supports the use of violence against women and children.
  • That the Department of Social Development tables the third amendment of the Children’s Act in order to prohibit corporal punishment.



  1. Optimus Study South Africa: Sexual Victimisation of children in South Africa, May 2016
  2. Sifuna, Daniel N. Wither African Indigenous Knowledge? The Case Of Primary Education In Africa, From Colonialism To Globalisation. Accessed at http://