“We’re not doing this right.” Servaas’ mood hasn’t lifted yet. Recent events depressed the old man to such an extent that Gertruida says he now sleeps in his black suit. “If the Valentine’s day murder hadn’t occurred, the media wouldn’t have forgotten about Anene Booysen so quickly. Her rape and murder was – if comparisons can even be contemplated – a much worse crime. She was repeatedly raped by men taking turns. Her stomach was slit open. Her bowels spilled out on the dusty ground. She was mercilessly beaten. She died. If the media wanted sensation, her case was perfect for it. If people wanted to protest, she was a reason. If parliamentarians and lawmakers wanted to highlight the crime, her funeral would have been a perfect platform.
“But no. The president – whose own rape case resulted in no conviction, like 90% of such cases do in this country -made a lame statement; a few people expressed their disgust and the poor girl was laid to rest in the forgiving soil of her hometown. The contrast is just too obvious to ignore.”
For once, Gertruida agrees. “You’re right, Servaas. Look what happened in India. Jyoti Singh Pandey caused an international furore and mass protests. The plight of Indian women was brought into sharp focus, and the lawmakers are being forced to review the role of women in Indian society. It’s an ongoing process. The legacy of Miss Pandey will at least mean something for future generations. Her death – so terribly tragic and unnecessary – is having a lasting impact.
“But over here, Anene is just another rape victim, one of the many. In a country where a woman gets raped every four minutes, we’ve become insensitive to the anguish and heartache of rape. However, had the Valentine’s Day murder not happened, the media would have made something more of her case.”
“There is a difference.” Vetfaan sighs at the reality of an unbalanced world. “Equality is just another word. The Constitution makes a big spiel about equality. It says we all enjoy the same rights and privileges, and nobody is more important than anybody else. It’s a lot of hogwash, of course. Anene Booysen came from a poor family in a town most people can’t point to on a map. She didn’t finish school. She worked as a cleaner, at the age most kids should be studying to improve their futures. Her life was a one-way highway to misery.
“So the media chased down the story, ran with it for a few days, and got bored. This was not the case of a beauty queen whose future was snatched away. She never adorned the cover of glossy magazines or appeared in reality TV shows. She never modelled sexy clothes for lecherous men to ogle at. She was simply not that interesting…
“But then Valentines Day happened. I’m sure the media bosses let out a collective sigh of relief. Sensation! Drama! A beautiful woman and an international star! Two people who made South Africans feel proud, did something to shock the nation! Hooray! And the helicopters and taxis and TV vans raced out to the security-fenced complex to camp outside the gates in the hope of getting a vague photo of the accused. For what? To paste the picture of a tormented man on the front page to fascinate the nation?” Vetfaan shakes his head: the world is sick…
“Look, rape and murder is wrong. Abuse – in any form – is a sin. I suggest we urge everybody we meet, to pray for the Steenkamp and the Booysen family. Grief is the great leveller. No matter who you are and where you live; irrespective of dreams and ambitions, wealth or poverty; the loss of a loved leaves an emptiness that knows no boundaries.” Boggel, too, seems sombre today. “And while they’re at it, lets not forget the daily tally of murders taking place in our society. We’ve become a violent, unthinking community with little regard for others.
“The abuse of women and children is as bad as the abuse of power. Anene is a symptom, guys, not a disease. Our society have learnt from it’s leaders: if you want it, you take it. The weaker gets exploited, the stronger man rules. Equality? There’s no equality. It’s the absence of equality that allows corruption and crime to thrive.”
“Yes, you can pray.” Oudoom sits down heavily. “And it’s right that you do. But sometimes God puts you in a place where you have to make decisions. Sometimes He’s telling us to stop asking Him to fix stuff. Society is the way we made it. We voted a government into power. We chose leaders who are corrupt. We turn a blind eye to the mayhem in the country. And we’ve created an unequal society where the rich and the famous will forever receive more attention than a poor girl in Bredasdorp. So, my friends, if we did it, why think He must make it right again?”
“What do you suggest, Oudoom?”
“Nothing much. I suggest we urge our brothers and sisters in the country, to open their eyes. To stop tolerating and inciting violence. To bring religion back into our schools. To discipline their children with kindness. To open parliament with prayer. To be dignified in their interaction with all others. To realise that we’ll ruin the country if we go on like this.
“It’s not much to ask, is it?”
Suddenly, they all had the same vision. It’s a picture of a young girl whose life may have been such a blessing to those around her. She’s been beaten and raped and stabbed and cut open. Her bowels spill from the slit abdomen. Her blood is seeping away into the ground.
Her name is not Anene. Her name is not Joyti.
Her name is South Africa.