Tag Archives: rape

The Rape of Miss Katie Malone (# 6)

1054432-3x2-940x627Constable Sipho Modise just loves his job. Four weeks ago he graduated from being just another man-in-the-street, to being a respected member of the police force…or as they call it: Police Service. Accent on Service… Yes, he’ll protect and serve, that’s what he’ll do. For too long has he listened to the frightening stories of crime in his neighbourhood; it is time to stand up and be counted.

He did well in his training. The driver’s test was almost a fiasco when he bumped the brand-new police van into an unsuspecting but very irresponsible tree, but because he at least hit the target twice during the shooting exam, his superior officer was kind enough to turn a blind eye to that little mishap.

But now, today, Constable Sipho is an unhappy man. The crime. The rapes. The murders. The corruption. And now, the ultimate injustice of all: the Western Province did not win the Currie Cup. With players like Jean de Villiers and Geo Aplon, they were assured to be victorious on their home ground. What happened? The Sharks won then convincingly. And that, Sipho will tell you, is just so wrong.

So today, on his beat, he will see to it that justice is served. Pure, unadulterated, concentrated, 100% proof Justice. No holds barred…

One can understand that – when he sees a naked woman trying to climb through a window – Constable Sipho reacts immediately. Is this a new way of breaking-and-entering? Or is it simply Public Indecency? Or soliciting?

He doesn’t care. He’ll stop crime, no matter what it is called. He’s about to open the garden gate leading to the door, when a minibus screeches to a halt next to the curb.

***

“Help!”

It’s a plaintive shout, a hopeless one at that, directed at nobody at all. The Man forgets all about the value of his asset as he yanks her back into the house, sending her sprawling across the floor.

“How dare you! You are NOTHING! Worthless! I tried to be nice to you…but now! Now I’ll simply speed up your little program with a nice little preview of the rest of your miserable life.” When she whimpers in fright, he backhands her once – hard – drawing blood from a burst lip. The Man finds this funny as he unbuckles his belt.

***

“Constable!” Vetfaan rushes up to the uniformed man with a hand held high. “Please, you’ve got to help us. There’s a woman…”

“The naked one?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know. A young woman. I believe she’s being held here against her will.”

Unlike the stereotype so many people entertain in their minds, Sipho is neither stupid nor ignorant. It is true that he grew up in a small village and it is accurate to say his formal schooling left much to be desired. However, his father taught him and his three brothers a lot about life, tradition and culture. Domestic violence wasn’t tolerated. Drinking was evil. Disrespecting your seniors and women were severely frowned upon and usually resulted in a beating.

Now, when Constable Sipho hears the burly man describing in short, urgent sentences why he is here, it is Sipho’s tradition – his father’s teachings – that takes over; it made a far greater impression on him than the training he recently received.

Motioning Vetfaan to follow him, Sipho runs quietly up the stairs to turn the handle on the front door.

“It is locked….”

Of course it was. At least, when he uttered the words, the statement was true…but not for long. He watches in awe as the Vetfaan hurls his big frame at the door, ripping the hinges off the frame.

“Not any more, ” Vetfaan pants as he storms in.

***

Some men are funny. Not Ha-Ha funny…just weirdly strange.Check out a man working on a carburettor, or a Sharks fan watching the final. Somehow, they lose contact with their surroundings as they focus on what they’re doing. Women- generally speaking – are much more aware of their surroundings. Maybe that’s why lionesses do the hunting…?

So, when Vetfaan storms into the room where The Man is towering over Miss Katie Malone, it takes both men a second to comprehend the situation. For what seems to be an everlasting moment, the two big man stare at each other. Katie, with the fast-processing, multiple open-window-microchip inherited by all females, doesn’t have to think – she’s up in a flash to storm towards the open front door and freedom.

***

They watch as the ambulance men stagger down the front steps, carrying the huge limp and groaning mess on the litter to the waiting vehicle.

“That man isn’t going to talk for a lo-o-ong time. And he’s going to have to eat watery porridge even longer.” Sipho smiles smugly from behind the barrel of his pistol that is trained more-or-less in the direction of The Caretaker.

Fanny has found some bandages, and is bandaging Vetfaan’s right hand. Typical male, Vetfaan flinches every now and then to show his woman how much it hurts. She’s not fooled, of course, but true to her gender, she makes soothing sounds to tell her man what a mighty warrior he had been. It’s a game as old as the world…

Gertruida was, in retrospect, the one who acted most rationally. When Katie ran full tilt into her, it was Gertruida who lifted the trembling woman into her arms and went back inside. She barely glanced over to where Vetfaan was busy practicing advanced dentistry on The Man with a small table, as she looked around, found a cupboard in the corridor and discovered a gown and slippers.

***

Report in The Cape Argus.

In a well-planned operation, members of the South African Police Service apprehended a number of suspects in Cape Town yesterday in connection with an international human trafficking syndicate. Unconfirmed reports suggest that several people employed at Cape Town International Airport were involved, as well as a senior police officer. 

A spokesman for SAPS did not confirm or deny that their investigations might now concentrate on certain individuals in the Middle East and China. However, it was stated that Interpol is now involved as well.

The minister of police issued a short statement, praising the prompt action of a constable who was responsible for the breakthrough.

Meanwhile, the condition of one of the suspects remain critical but stable in Groote Schuur Hospital. This man apparently tried to escape, but managed to run into a speeding bus. The bus driver could not be contacted.

***

“Uuuuuh…” Vetfaan rubs he cracked rib as he reaches for his beer.

They’re back in Rolbos, where Katie is recovering under Mevrou’s loving care. Gertjie Viljoen gladly accepted Gertruida’s invitation to visit; he’s out in the veld, photographing butterflies.

“Well,” Boggel sighs, “at least she wasn’t… You know? Raped…”

“Boggel, that’s a typical stupid remark people use these days. At least I wasn’t killed. Or: It’s only worldly goods, at least they didn’t hurt you. I’m not fighting with you, Boggel, but it pisses me off.This remark is so unlike Gertruida that even Vetfaan stops groaning. “It’s as if we’ve come to accept crime as being okay, as long as our lives are spared.

“You know what? That’s bullshit!” She’s so agitated and angry that she ignores the box of tissues Boggel produces. Bugger it! She can cry if she wants to! “People do to you what you allow them to. If we continue to have this submissive victim-syndrome, we’ll just keep on saying stupid things like that. And if we continue to vote for a corrupt government, we deserve every criminal act perpetrated by thieves, poachers, smugglers, murderers and…rapists.” The last word is hissed with so much venom that an eerie silence fills Boggel’s Place.

“There, there, Gertruida…” Oudoom gets up to take Gertruida in his arms. “The meek shall inherit…”

Between the sobs, Gertruida shakes her head. No…she doesn’t believe that any more.

“Take me home, Dominee, please. I’m so tired.”

The group at the bar watches as Oudoom leads Gertruida towards her cottage. They’ve never seen her like this before.

“Uuuh…” Vetfaan directs everybody’s attention back to his bruised body. Like men are wont to do, he likes being the center of attention.

“Oh you poor man…” Fanny’s eyes have a mischievous glint as she smiles at Vetfaan. “Sooo brave…”

She gets a brilliant smile from the burly man.

“I was thinking of spoiling you a bit tonight, Fanie…you know?” She runs a playful finger over the stubble on his chin. “But with you in so much pain, we’ll have to postpone it for a few weeks. Just to allow you to recover.”

The brilliant smile gets replaced with the pained look of a man waving a Western Province flag at Newlands.

***

In the months to come, Miss Katie Malone will write a book on the effects of psychological rape – not only about herself, but also involving a whole nation. The title – Silent Suffering – will be read by many, understood by few, and it’s contents regarded as brilliant literature.  Sadly, it won’t change the way people think or act. It’s become a habit – a self-destructive, self-defeatist attitude that makes us insensitive to suffering – as long as it happens to somebody else…

One good day, we will see
Arising a strand of smoke
Over the far horizon on the sea
And then the ship appears
And then the ship is white
It enters into the port, it rumbles its salute.

The Rape of Miss Katie Malone (# 5)

CIMG6483Manie Schoeman lets out an extremely unman-like scream as the bits of his Marantz music centre slices into his back, causing a sound even the state-of-the-art speakers could never reproduce. Vetfaan stands off to one side, but only after Gertjie  has lowered his not inconsiderable bulk onto the unfortunate customs officer’s chest. The scream quite naturally peters out to become a strangled gasp.

“I…can’t…breathe…!” Manie’s arms flop around helplessly.

“Tell us about Katie! Now!”

“I’m just a spotter. That’s all! I didn’t do anything…”

***

Fanny makes notes while Manie does his best to confess, while Gertjie sits with a cherubic smile on his battered prisoner. Yes he tipped them off. Them? The man known as Contact, the man who pays him to be a spotter. And then…? The Contact leads the woman to the Transporters. “And then…? The victim is delivered to the Man…at The Warehouse.

“Now, Mister Schoeman, where is The Warehouse?”

Silence.

Vetfaan walks over to the well-stocked bar, where he selects a bottle of 21-year-old Chivas Regal. Returning the the hapless Manie, he positions the bottle exactly above his head before letting go. The crunch of the bottle against the nose of The Spotter makes everybody flinch.

“No…! Please!!”

***

Miss Katie Malone wraps the blanket tightly around her body. She’s sitting right next to the door of her windowless room, waiting… As far as her abductors are concerned, the pills would have induced a deep sleep again, rendering her harmless. Her only hope and her only weapon is surprise. She knows her chances for escape must be rated as near-zero – but this is all she’s got. The alternative is to wait for the inevitable; whatever that might turn out to be. She has no doubt that it’ll involve a lot of unpleasantries…

The Caretaker arrives after what seemed to be ages and ages. Acting on the new orders to keep their captive healthy and well-fed, she’s carrying a tray on which a McDonalds burger and a glass of milk is balanced. She guides the tray carefully on the one hand while she unlocks the door.

Two things happen almost simultaneously: The Caretaker notices that her prisoner isn’t curled up against the far wall, where she usually sleeps and…she trips over the extended leg of Miss Katie Malone. Instinct forces her to try to balance the tray while she stumbles, but that only causes her to be more off-balance. Katie watches as the woman pitches forward, glass and hamburger arching through the air…and can’t help flinching when her warden cracks her head on the hard concrete floor.

Moving with surprising speed, she gets out of the room, slams the door and turns the key.

*** 

The Man – known by many other names, but likes to go under the handle of Freddy – Freddy-the-Fence or Freddy Fingers. The former relates to his business as middleman (for any type of contraband, from rhino horn to false banknotes) while the latter refers to his favourite amputation game, played with people who’ve shown less than the expected enthusiasm for his schemes.

He’s just replaced the receiver after concluding the transaction with the sheik; a most lucrative undertaking even if he must say so himself. Yes, he’ll dress her up nicely. The sheik will attend a meeting of oil suppliers with the Minister of Energy next week, which means his private jet will be parked at Cape Town’s airport for two whole days. Smuggling the doped woman aboard will be an easy task.

Twelve million! Wow! With that money he can buy a villa on the Transkei coast and disappear off the radar forever!

Smiling happily, he marches off to the holding cell. Best make sure the woman is taken care of properly…

***

“Anything else you’d like to tell us?” Gertjie makes it sound as if it is the most natural thing to ask.

“No..will..you..please..get off…my..chest?”

Sighing with obvious reluctance, Gertjie scrambles to his feet. Casting around for something to tie his prisoner up, he settles for the electric cord of the broken music centre.

“You sure about that address?” Vetfaan has a bottle of 50-year old Port in his and, again strategically and very squarely above the broken nose.

“Y-yes. I swear.”

“Now…you do anything foolish, and you’ll regret it.” There’s no mistaking Vetfaan’s threat. “I’ll personally come back to dismember you. And that, my dear chap, is an unintended pun.”

***

“Fanie?” Fanny glances over at her husband, on the back seat of Gerjie’s minibus. “I’ve never seen you like that.”

That much is true. Vetfaan has a reputation of being a bit of a softie.

“I’m sorry. I think I lost it a bit back there. When I realised he was making money by helping others to abduct innocent civilians – female civilians, nogal – something just snapped.” He seems crestfallen when his eyes meet hers. “I’m sorry, Love…”

Much to his surprise, she leans over to peck a kiss on his cheek. “You ape-man, you! I’m the one to apologise. When the Chivas broke his nose, I wanted to cheer!”

Gertruida leans over from the front seat to fix them with a stern stare.

“If you two lovebirds can leave the necking for later, we can try to concentrate on the job at hand. We have a name – Freddy – and an address in Camps Bay. We assume that Katie is held there. I suggest we go there directly to assess the situation. Going to the police now, will involve a lot of questions, forms and bureaucratic red tape. My thinking is that every minute she spends with that crowd, will simply amplify the trauma she’s enduring. Maybe we can drop Vetfaan and Gertjie there to watch the place while Fanny and I do the police report?”

Gertjie nods, causing a little tidal wave of double chins to run up and down the front of his throat.

***

Miss Katie Malone almost made it to freedom. Almost. She didn’t care if she only had a blanket to cover her body, didn’t worry about anything..the only thought racing through her mind, was to escape, escape, escape…!

A window! An open window! There!

She could see the window overlooks a veranda of sorts. Surely there’ll be a garden? A gate? A street leading to freedom?  The blanket prevents her from getting through the window easily. Grunting in frustration, she pulls it off and throws it through the open window,

“Bloody hell!” The shout freezes her in mid-action. “Where do you think you’re going!” White hot anger colours the words. “I’ll teach you!”

Galvanised into action, she tries to get through the window…but the heavy hand on her shoulder yanks her back. Suddenly, she doesn’t care any more. She can’t escape. Like Lady Jane Grey at the hands of Mary, she has to accept her life isn’t even worth screaming for any longer..

For a fleeting moment, she regretted every love she ever experienced; for from now on, her life would be one of forced smiles and faked moments of pleasure…

What can I say
there’s an empty where your love
filled my life and I know.
That a part of you will always be
a part of me.

The Rape of Miss Katie Malone (# 3)

sunbeamsillhouettewebIt’s cold. Dark.

The floor beneath her naked body is hard – concrete-like. When the harsh light is switched on, she tries to sit up, but her muscles don’t respond like they usually do.

“I…I’m thirsty.” She struggles to form the words; her tongue feels like sandpaper and the headache pounds away in her skull so loudly that she can barely hear herself.

“Get up!” There’s no sympathy in the sharp command.

“I…I can’t.”

Then a thousand stars explode in her mind as the hand strikes her cheek.

***

“Listen, we have to do something. The police have issued a request that the public must be on the lookout for her and her photograph was featured in the TV news. However, if she had been abducted, her kidnappers aren’t going to parade her about on the Waterfront. They’ll keep her where nobody will see her. So, splashing her picture all over the media is just going to make things worse: the perpetrators will be extra careful now.”

“I agree, Gertruida. I think we must go to Cape Town to see what we can find out.” Vetfaan has a determined look as he pushes back his empty glass. “I think we must leave now.”

“But Fanie, where will we look? Cape Town is such a huge place.” Fanny likes it when Vetfaan takes charge of things, but this time…

There are a few reasons why Boggel’s Place is sometimes more successful at solving problems than Oudoom’s church. Of course Boggel serves Cactus Jack and a variety of other social lubricants; but the most important reason is that discussions here are open and frank – and everybody has the right to chip in. Oudoom acknowledges this, which is why he is a regular customer. He says that the message of Love and Faith should not be restricted to Sunday sermons alone.

“Listen,” Oudoom holds up a hand to silence the chaotic discussions taking place. “You know what St James wrote, don’t you? He said faith isn’t enough. He stated that faith should be visible in your actions. It’s what you do that counts, not just you saying the right words. So Vetfaan’s remark is valid. We have to do something…”

As far as sermons go, this is maybe one of Oudoom’s shortest – but it tips the scale of debate there and then.

***

“Turn to me!”

Miss Katie Malone stands, doubled-up, against the wall. Even with her eyes closed, she can’t shut out the sharp light the man directs at her. She can hear a camera clicking away.

“Why are you doing this? What have I done to you?” She has to overcome her nausea and fear  as she struggles to stand upright. The taste of blood inside her mouth reminds her of the power of the man and adds a tinge of hysteria to her voice..

She gets a guffaw as an answer. “It’s not what you did to me, young lady. It’s what you’re going to do for me. Har! Now stand straight, and take your hands away. I want these photographs to be perfect. Come on! Or do you want me to convince you again?”

***

Under normal circumstances, our thoughts and actions are governed by a logic we base on past experiences. We say things and do things because we judge them to be appropriate under the current situation.

Katie Malone, like all other victims under these circumstances, has no point of reference. The fear and panic inside her are overwhelming and she has to fight her instincts to remain rational. She knows, however, that she must somehow find it in herself to be calm – it is her only chance to survive this ordeal.

Now, alone, cold, hungry and parched, she somehow finds her thoughts straying back to the novel she wrote. Mary, the daughter of King Henry VIII, had been a strong-willed and obstinate young lady. When the throne seemed lost to her, she rallied the men of East Anglia to dethrone Lady Jane Grey who ruled England for only nine days. Although her life was characterised with a certain ruthlessness, earning her the name of Bloody Mary, she fought for her beliefs and her faith.

The thought is strangely comforting. Katie Malone is not going to give up…

***

The three of them catch the early-morning flight from Upington to Cape Town. Fanny, Vetfaan and Gertruida were voted the best candidates for the job and now they have to find a way to discover what had happened to Katie Malone.

“This place gives me the creeps.” Vetfaan shivers involuntary while he watches the masses of people milling around in the airport. “I’d hate to stay in Cape Town. I even miss Vrede…”

“You can become sentimental later, Vetfaan. We can’t waste time now.” Gertruida scans the faces of the people around them. Where is Gertjie Viljoen? He promised to be here…

***

Gertruida – who knows everything – has a network of old friends and colleagues second to none. During her time in National Intelligenceshe and Gertjie had to create a list of potential enemies of the state (as they were called then). What it meant was: they had to investigate the backgrounds of individuals, assess their political convictions, and report suspicious actions. Gertruida’s end of the bargain was to type the voluminous reports Gertjie had drawn up. His ability to ferret out details was quite astounding. People quite naturally told him anything he wanted to know – he seemed such a harmless creature. His approach was open and friendly…and he was a good listener. It usually only took an evening in the local pub to get the background he needed for the files. He used to call their section  the Gertjie-and-Gerty Squad, GG’S for short.

Gertjie is a retired professor of political science now, living quietly in an old-age home in Wellington, where he spends his time photographing butterflies. He was overjoyed to hear from Gertruida and spent a good thirty minutes with her on the phone.

Gertruida almost doesn’t recognise him. The dapper, middle-aged man with the steely-blue eyes and the athletic body has changed into a rotund blob; bald and covered with liver spots.

“Gerty!” He wheezes his greeting and almost trips as he carries his massive weight across the floor at an amazing speed.

“Gertjie?” She recovers in time to receive the bear hug. “My, you look good…”

“Trust an old spy to lie, eh?” He rubs a hand over the impressive paunch. “It’s good to see you.”

They exchange a few pleasantries before Gertruida steers him towards the purpose of their visit.

“Yes, i dug around a little bit like you asked me. Know the woman in charge of the duty rosters here at the airport. A daughter of an old flame.” Gertjie smiles wryly as he wheezes his short sentences. “There were nine Customs officers on duty when Miss Malone’s plane landed. The computer that registered her passport was manned by one M J Schoeman, an employee of the government for thirteen years. Impeccable record. Lives in Seaview Flats, number 3. That’s in Groenpunt. Unmarried, rumoured to have an affair with the wife of Colonel McBride, a senior policeman. Drives a new Polo, silver-grey. So far, that’s what I’ve got.”

When Gertruida praises his efforts, Gertjie’s smile threatens to dislodge his ears.

“Well, that’s the last person who had any contact with her – at least: the last one we know of. I suggest we pay the man a visit.”

***

Isolated in her dark, cold, room, Miss Katie Malone prays quietly. Please – please! – let this be a dream? Only one thing remains now – maybe two: faith and her desire to survive… Love, hope and faith…except there is no love here…

Fight the fear, Katie… FIGHT!

***

In his office, the big man tries to sound casual while he’s talking to the sheik. Oh yes, the photographs were taken today… No, she’s not harmed, not at all… Twelve million Rands? For her? Yes, he’ll think about it. He’ll call back tomorrow.

I can get more in Japan, the big man lies, knowing the sheik isn’t fooled.

He replaces the receiver thoughtfully. Just goes to show: there’s no accounting for taste…imagine the sheik taking a fancy in her…? Whistling happily, he fetches a blanket from the cupboard in the corridor. He’s just got twelve million reasons to keep her warm and healthy…

The Rape of Miss Katie Malone (# 2)

outside_view_(copy)Miss Katie Malone hesitates for a moment. She’s just gone through Customs, and isn’t quite sure where to go now. Domestic Departures? Probably…

She has a bit of a start when a soft finger taps her on the shoulder.

“I believe you’re on your way to Upington?”

Katie looks up at the tall individual, noting the smart blue suit, matching tie and the nametag. A. Makoena – Passenger Services. Broad shoulders, brilliant smile. Friendly face.

“Er…yes, I am.”

“I’m sorry, Miss, your flight has been delayed.”

“Oh…” She doesn’t know what to say.”When…when is the flight due now?”

“Technical problems, Miss. Not sure how long it will take. However, if you wish, I can escort you to the VIP lounge, where you can wait. The flight will be announced within the next few hours. I’m sure.”

Katie Malone, new and alone in Africa, used to the way things are done back home, doesn’t suspect a thing. Nodding her thanks, she follows the big man through the departure hall allowing him to carry her heavy suitcase. Wow! And I thought Africa is a wild and scary place…

***

The transition from eager naivety to shocked terror takes place within a matter of seconds. When the man leads her through a side door (It’s a shortcut, Miss, much faster this way) she doesn’t see the shadowy figure behind her. It’s only when the sponge soaked in desflurane is clamped across her nose and mouth by a strong hand, that panic sets in. The pungent smell makes her want to cough, scream, fight back – but her rapidly diminishing consciousness only registers undiluted fear as she feels herself sinking to the floor.

It’s over in a minute. The two men drag her to another door, where a third man helps them bundle her into the back of a minibus.

“Go! Go!” An impatient hand slaps the roof of the vehicle.

Bearing the official Airports Company logo, the minibus passes through the security barrier without the attendant even looking up.

***

“I don’t understand it. She landed in Cape Town, went through Customs…and then  – nothing.” Gertruida puts down the phone with a worried frown. “Maybe she simply got lost…?”

“I don’t believe that. She came from Heathrow, which is infinitely bigger and more complex than Cape Town’s airport. She may be naive, but she’s not stupid. She promised to phone as soon as she landed – and she didn’t…”

“Well, I’ve got them paging for her at the airport now, so maybe we’ll know more soon. We’ll just have to wait.”

***

Waking up is the hardest thing she’s ever done. Her eyelids feel like they weigh a ton while her brain still reels from the overdose of anaesthetic. At first she thought it was night time, but gradually she realised she had to open her eyes to see.

Clothes? Where are her clothes?

Naked…

The horror of the situation dawns slowly as she desperately tries to make sense of her surroundings. Then she remembers the rough hand over her face…the sponge…the foul smell. And then the logic: she’s been kidnapped. Abducted. Taken against her will…

Where? Where is she? Why…what… Oh, God….

“Gee, I’m glad you woke up, Miss.” The voice is as unexpected as her new surroundings. Still, it is a kind voice, a soft voice, a female voice – a voice conveying…kindness? “Now, Miss, don’t you worry. You’re safe for now. Unfortunately, we had to take your clothes away. We don’t want you to think of…going away…shall we say? If you behave yourself, things will improve.”

Katie becomes aware of the cold concrete beneath her.

“What are you doing to me?” The edge of hysteria hovers in her tone as she fights to remain calm. “Why…”

“Don’t ask questions. Anyway, I don’t know answers. I’m a caretaker, that’s all. My job is to see you don’t harm yourself. Are you thirsty?”

“Y-yes…”

“Here.”

She feels rather than sees the glass, takes it gratefully and swallows eagerly. Only afterwards the bitter taste hits her and she gags. Before she can object, the darkness comes swarming back.

***

“This isn’t happening,” Gertruida slams down the phone behind the counter in Boggel’s Place. When it became obvious that Katie Malone wasn’t on any scheduled flight to Upington, they returned to Rolbos to await further developments. “Nobody knows anything. They found a suitcase with her flight number on outside Cape Town, with a few copies of her book inside. The nametag says it belongs to K Malone, which is pretty conclusive. The police say yes, they’ve opened a docket, but it doesn’t seem as if they’re doing much else.”

“Do you think she was…hijacked?”

“Kidnapped, Fanny, kidnapped. I just don’t know why. Is she from a rich family?”

“Not really. The Malones are pretty much middle-of-the-road people – comfortable but not wealthy. And it’s not as if they are politically active or anything like that.”

Mevrou lets out a protracted sigh. “Human trafficking, Gertruida. It’s the world’s number one criminal sport these days. Take a woman, a child, a youth…and sell them to the highest bidder. There’s a lot of money to be made…” 

“What? You can’t be serious!” Kleinpiet  can’t imagine such things happening in modern times.

“Sorry Kleinpiet, she is.” Gertruida adopts her lecture-tone. “On average, very six hours, every day, the police receive a report of a missing child in this country – and almost 60% fall in to the 13 – 18 year age group. That’s 1460 cases per year – but that’s only the official figure. What about youths disappearing from the far-flung rural areas? The most common race group? White.

“When it gets to adults, the figure is more difficult to define. People disappear for all kinds of reasons: some even try to evade tax that way; others have all kinds of personal reasons to drop below the social radar.  I read one report that about 500,000 Americans go missing every year – permanently. Of course, when taking into account that raped women are also abducted, then the abduction/kidnapping situation becomes horrifying.

“And in Europe, 270,000 persons are victims of human trafficking every year – generating an income of 21 billion Pounds for the traffickers. That’s so many zeros, I can’t even begin to think of what it translates to in Rands. Now…add China, Bangkok  Vietnam, and the Arabian countries. Go figure…” She takes a deep breath before continuing.

“In Africa the situation is probably worse. People stay in isolated places with little or no contact with the authorities. When a child doesn’t come home at night, there’s no way of telling whether he’s lost his way, decided to visit the family in the next kraal, decided to run away, been eaten by some beast, struck by a snake…or abducted. Witchdoctors use the bodies of children in their concoctions. Some children are sold simply because the family can’t feed them. There is no way of even guessing what the statistics in Africa are like.”

“Oh for goodness’ sakes!” Vetfaan stares at his empty glass. “This is so bloody depressing! But…what has this got to do with Katie Malone?”

“Work it out, Vetfaan. The woman clears Customs, then doesn’t board her flight. The suitcase they found…. If only the luggage was stolen, she would have contacted us. But no – not a word. I have a bad feeling about this.”

***

The big man stares down at the sleeping body of Miss Katie Malone. She’s no beauty, but the right age and fairly attractive. Dress her up nicely, add some makeup, get the hair done… Yes, she’ll do. 

But first they must re-educate her. Get her into the right frame of mind. Change this miserable woman with her fighting rebellious attitude to a docile, submissive creature. It’ll only be a short while before she’ll be begging to please him.

They’re all the same…

 

The Rape of Miss Katie Malone (# 1)

Framlingham Castle

Framlingham Castle

“She’s young – if I remember correctly, she’s twenty-five or six. My mother’s sister’s child, which makes her my niece-I-never-knew. But she wants to visit and I’d like to get to know her. Sooo…Gertruida…if it’s alright with you, I’d like her to book into the guest house.” Fanny beams at the older woman, knowing what the answer will be.

Katie’s letter arrived a little earlier in the day and by now everybody in Rolbos knows about the young woman’s intended visit.

“Of course, Fanny. I hear it’s her first visit to South Africa?”

“Well…first visit to Africa, in fact. Never been out of England. She’s a bit naive, I think – in her letter she asked a thousand questions about climate and clothing. She wanted to know how we live and whether we still have wild animals around. But…she’s wildly excited and so keen to come.”

Katie Malone has had a sheltered life in Framlingham, Suffolk. Here she attended the much-acclaimed Thomas Mills High School before she wrote her first novel. Set in Framlingham Castle the storyline involves the bravery of Mary Tudor in her defiance of Lady Jane Grey. Because she had woven fact and fiction in such a clever way that she wept the readers along in the story of war, love and hope, she became a bit of an overnight sensation – much to her own surprise.

“Well, if she wants a quiet place to write the sequel to her bestseller, she’s certainly made a wise choice. Nothing ever happens here – does it?” Boggel cynical smile isn’t lost on his audience: Bianca’s visit is all too fresh in their minds. “But it’ll be interesting to have her around. Maybe she’d be interested in a few of our stores – !Ka is a wonderful story-teller as well. I remember the first time you met the little Bushman, Fanny.”

“Oh, we have enough stories to tell her, that’s for sure. Remember the Himba man? Still, I think she’s got her own story in her head and now needs a bit of peace and quiet to write it down. I’m sure we can supply that…”

***

Most people will look at Katie without noticing her. At five-foot-five, the trim, bespectacled figure tends to melt away n the background. Although her face is, if you looked carefully, well-proportioned, Katie doesn’t care much for cosmetics. Her auburn hair is mostly swept back in a bun, making her appear much older that she is. As for dressing up…well, she just isn’t into the latest fashion at all.

The man at the Immigration desk takes her passport before studying her face.

“Purpose of your visit?”

Katie smiles nervously. “I-I want to write. A book, see? I’m a writer.”

“So you come from England to write in Cape Town?” The voice is disinterested, bored…but the sharp intake of breath suggests otherwise. It’s been a long shift and so far he hasn’t seen any suitable candidates so far. This one…? Maybe…

“Yes…. No… I’m on my way to some family. I’ll write there.”

“Where is the family?”

“Oh, Rolbos. It’s apparently near Upington. I’m catching a flight to Upington and they’ll get me there.”

He stamps the passport before watching her make her way to the exit. Then he takes out his cellphone to call Abdul Masbieker.

“Hey, it’s me. Check that woman coming through the exit now. Lone traveller, young, harmless. Short. One suitcase. Brown hair in a bun. She’s got a connecting flight to Upington, so she won’t have anybody waiting for her here.”

Smiling happily, he calls the next passenger.

***

The little cafeteria at Upington Airport is rather busy today. Some government officials  are waiting for the flight back to Cape Town, and they’re using their expense accounts to order steaks, chips and several bottles of beer.  They’re in a foul mood.

“What are we going to tell the minister? We can’t admit our land-reform policy isn’t working. That farm we inspected is a mess – even I could see that.”

“Eish, no, we can’t do that. We’ll have to be a bit creative, I think. We can always state that ten families live there….”

“Yeah? In those shacks? There’s no sanitation, no electricity. And did you see what they did to the original house?”

“You worry too much. It depends on your point of view.  We’ll report that they are self-sufficient. That’s all they want to hear, anyway.”

***

Two tables away, Gertruida shakes her head. The question of the redistribution of land is a thorny one; but the way the government is doing it is simply making matters worse.

“90% of the farms government now gave to ‘previously disadvantaged’ people, have been run into the ground. I’m quite surprised that CNN or BBC haven’t reported it.”

“Do you really think anybody in Europe or America is interested?” Fanny shrugs and smiles sadly. “We’re in Africa, Gertruida. Africa. This is where Mugabe rules, xenophobia happens and corruption paves the way to the future. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, we’re the family member they don’t want to hear – or talk about. We live in a country where women and children are raped, farmers are murdered and crime has affected virtually every family.”

“You’re right, Fanny. Look at the international interest in the Mystery Girl they found in Greece. It’s all over the news…but I’ll bet not a single paper in the UK or USA reported on the Dieplsloot murders. It’s sad, to say the least.”

They get up to stand at the window when the flight from Cape Town is announced. They’re still standing there after the government officials have finished their meal and gone to the boarding gate.

“She wasn’t on the plane…”

“No, Fanny. She wasn’t. Something is wrong.”

Loki Rothman is a talented, Cape Town-based musical artist.

The King is Dead – Long Live the King

mandela“I think he’s gone,” Boggel says as he places the bottle of Cactus Jack on the counter. “Just a feeling, despite the president saying he’s a bit better.”

“Well, when I was in Upington to fetch that new carburettor for the tractor, everybody was talking about it. Some said it’s all a hoax, he isn’t that sick at all. Others were preparing to hold a wake in his memory. It’s so confusing.” Vetfaan gulps down his beer and reaches for a Cactus.

“But that Mac guy said he’s ill. Critically so. I heard him on the radio – and he’s the presidential spokesman, after all.”

“Ja, Precilla. Remember the little boy who cried wolf? He lied so much. nobody believed him in the end, even if he was speaking the truth.”

“My point, exactly.” Gertruida sighs. So many lies, so little to believe. “When they wanted to keep Nkadla secret, they passed a law to prevent us from finding out. They lied about the schools and the matric results. Loads of money disappear into already well-lined pockets. Our public hospitals are in such a bad shape, no minister ever gets admitted to to one. And where do you think the minister’s children gets schooled? There’s a good reason why they won’t set a foot in a government-run institution. 

“And, remember, our president said – just the other day – things have never been better in South Africa. That’s while they’re considering nationalising the mines and telling the public Zimbabwe is a good example for land reform.

“Meanwhile, people are raped and murdered at such a rate that the courts can’t keep up and the jails are overcrowded. Our farmers live in fear. The promised reduction in jobless people never materialised. Our Air Force is crippled because they can’t do maintenance on the planes, and our war ships are rusting away in the harbours.

“And yet the president makes jokes about the economy, telling journalists to write nice things about our country.”

“Gee, Boggel… Give me that bottle. Gertruida is talking me into a depression.”

“No, Vetfaan, it’s not me…it’s the government. We simply cannot believe them any more.”

Servaas raps the counter and points at his empty glass. “Well, next year we’ll have an election. Things will change.”

“Sure.” Kleinpiet shakes his head. “That’s what they believed in Zimbabwe, too.”

“But is Mister Mandela dead, or better? I still don’t know.”

“He died a long time ago, Servaas. Him and the dream of the Rainbow Nation. Remember the optimism during his term as president? That was his dream, his life – and over the last ten years, it all went up in smoke. And why? Because his legacy wasn’t what the government wanted. Instead, they allowed the police force to become an ill-disciplined group of people. The army was deployed all over the show, even to he DRC, where they lost soldiers because the president – in his wisdom – decided they had to protect interests there. What interests?

“And then the Guptas? You think Madiba would have done something like that?

“No, guys, Madiba had a dream…and it was kept alive on life-support for a while. It’s time to realise the dream never made it through Intensive Care. Those entrusted with the responsibility to sustain it, failed.”

“Agge nee, Gertruida! You’re generalising now. Not all of us feel that it’s hopeless.”

“Wake up, Kleinpiet. We’ve got to stop thinking that Madiba – in spite of his huge contribution – was the only one that could save the country. No, we need a new dream, a new hope. We need to rebuild a nation of honest, God-fearing people, who respect each other. We need responsible, accountable people in parliament, who are there to serve the masses, not exploit them. We need public servants to become just that: public servants.

“And that’s why we must be open and honest in our conversations with other people. They must know next year’s election is an opportunity to get back on track. Madiba won’t be there when the votes get counted, but we can keep his dream alive by honouring the ideals he tried to establish in our government.”

“And if that doesn’t happen?” Vetfaan raises an eyebrow, his face a picture of despair.

“Oh, that’s easy. Then the dream will become a nightmare, that’s all.”

Cathy’s Eyes (# 3)

knifeThey didn’t come quietly.

They never do; not in the townships where gangs need to impress, create fear, and rule without mercy. Being part of a gang will provide free drinks at the shebeen, the respect of everybody in the community and an unlimited supply of young girls. It also makes you untouchable – nobody will challenge you in anything. Gangs control everything from horse racing to drugs, making the strongest of the strong fabulously rich.

There is a price, of course: every member has to participate in the raids and fights that is part and parcel of the power struggles in gangland. This is where members have to prove their worth; the more ruthless the action, the higher they climb in the order of the group.

However, the ideal is to attack a defenceless individual. Here, the action is fast and furious and the results, atrocious.

Cathy’s father had  been drinking again. He borrowed money from the men who used to provide loans for his racing bets, despite  knowing that he won’t escape if he failed to pay back this time. Sadly, the more he drank, the less he cared…until it was too late. The debt – along with the exorbitant interest – eventually triggered the loan sharks to call in the help of Jack Okapi, the leader of Satan’s Knives.

During this time, Cathy tried everything she could to keep her father away from alcohol; but the devil in the bottle wouldn’t let the old man escape. The most devious of all animals  is found amongst those in the claws of addiction: no lie is ever too big to ensure just one more dose of bottled amnesia.

Despite Cathy’s attempts – and maybe because she took on a second job to make ends meet – her father sank deeper into his pit of alcohol and debt. Jack Okapi rallied his troops to settle the score once and for all.

They didn’t bother to knock, either. The flimsy door broke free from it’s hinges as they stormed in. Neighbours heard the commotion at about eleven that night, and did what everybody does under these circumstances:  they cowered down on the floor in the dark for fear of stray bullets. They needn’t have bothered: there would be no shooting. The gang had a much more ominous plan in mind.

Cathy was asleep in her bed, and flew up at the sound of the door crashing into their sparse furniture. Rough hands dragged her to the kitchen/living room area, while the others brought in her father. They made him watch.

He vomited when they tore her pyjamas off, cried when she was forced to the floor. They forced his eyelids open when he tried to close them. One after the other, they raped his daughter, in an animal-like display of vulgar lust and primitive behaviour. The grunts of sometimes-pretended satisfaction by the gang members were greeted with glee by the howling, cheering onlookers. One gang member couldn’t – his manhood failing at the sight of the spectacle of so much pain and suffering. He was punished the usual way: by being beaten unconscious.

Then, while the men laughed and bragged about how good they were, Jack Okapi slit the old man’s throat almost casually, before plunging the blade into the exposed and quivering abdomen of Cathy.

Cathy was left, bleeding, bruised, broken and barely conscious. When the gang left – dragging their unconscious soon-to-be-ex-member along, she had neither the strength nor the will to see whether her father was still alive. Maybe she realised it was useless to check, anyway. She lay, still spread-eagled, gasping and gagging, when at last a neighbour shone his torch into the mess that once was her home.

The neighbour covered her with a blanket while reciting the  Lord’s Prayer..

***

Sersant Dreyer draws a line in the dust on the counter top. A straight, deliberate line.

“That’s when I stopped believing,” he tells himself. “When I walked into that shack, my mind refused to cooperate. I just could not understand what I saw. How could men – in these enlightened times – act like animals? Worse: not even like animals – like demons, devils, sick unthinking beasts?”

He still feels that he is partially to blame for what happened that night. Although his relationship with Cathy never really got off the ground, he should have been a better friend, He could have checked up on them regularly. Maybe he could have arranged for the patrols to keep an eye on the shack. Maybe…

Cathy was still on the floor, with the blanket over her shivering body. She said nothing at all, her eyes stared into empty space. When the ambulance men picked her up, she blinked once. She never looked at the grotesque figure of her father who still sat upright in the chair where Jack Okapi had left him. His head had slumped forward, almost as if he had been dozing off. The blood had run over his tacky night clothes, over his lap and formed a pool on the floor.

Dreyer followed the ambulance to the hospital and gave her details for admission. He spoke to the tired ER doctor afterwards.

We get them every day, Constable. Torn and broken and bleeding. We can stitch the ripped  bits of flesh together, but that’s not where the damage is worst. She’ll never be the same, Constable Dreyer. The scars of the mind never heals. 

And…there’s the question of AIDS to consider as well…

Cathy remained in hospital for a month, during which the surgeons reconstructed the pelvic organs as best they could. She refused to see visitors, and his cards and letters were returned unopened. On the day before her discharge, Dreyer sneaked into her room while the nurses were busy elsewhere.

“I had to see you,” he said lamely.

She turned her face to the wall.

“I can’t imagine what you must be feeling like, Cathy, but I do want to help. You can’t go back to the shack, anyway. I want you to come back to the flat, to stay with me…”

It took ages for her to turn back to face him. Her eyes were dark shadows of fear and anger, and he could barely make out the whispered words.

“I’m not me any more, Dreyer. I died that night, as dead as my father. They were kind to him – they cut his throat.” Her eyes reflected an incredible sadness. “But that’s where my life ended.” She turned back to the wall. “Go away now.”

On his way out, he stopped at the sister’s station to ask about Cathy.

“You’re the constable that brought her in?”

“Yes, Sister.”

“I shouldn’t be telling you this…,” she hesitated, made up her mind, and continued, “but she’ll be discharged tomorrow.  There’s a house they send these girls to – a place run by a church, Thembikosi. It means: Trust the Lord.”

“Oh…is it for psychological support?”

“No Constable. That’s where they treat the girls with the new virulent, progressive AIDS. Over the last few years these cases have become more and more frequent. Maybe it’s a new strain, or maybe the girls get exposed to a abnormally high initial viral load…but so far treatment doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.”

Dreyer left without greeting the woman.

Two hours later a passing patrol car found him sitting in his vehicle next to a lonely stretch of beach. By then, he had no more tears.

Rape, the Beloved Country

Reeva Steenkamp

Reeva Steenkamp

Anene Booysen

Anene Booysen

“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.

The Unbearable Burden of Beauty

 The late Reeva Steenkamp Credit: Mstarz.com

The late Reeva Steenkamp
Credit: Mstarz.com

“Why is it that men destroy the very object of their desire?” Precilla is still hugely upset about the recent events. “It’s as if beauty drives them to destruction.”

“Oh, come on!” Vetfaan sits back and eyes her critically. “Women are just as bad. Remember Daisy de Melker? She took out two husbands and her son.  And Nannie Doss killed eleven people, which included husbands, her mother, a nephew , children and a grandchild.”

“Those were serial killers, Vetfaan. I’m talking about apparently normal men – if there are any of them.  Your usual John Doe, the happy teller in the bank.  The guy driving the removal van. Even the CEO of an international company.  Guys who earned the respect of society but then goes and steals the petty cash in the safe, or shoplifts an apple in Woolworths?  If you have what you want in life, why do a Clinton with the intern? Or why build a Nkandla with corruption money when you life is filled with luxury already?”

“You need to define beauty first. Are we talking about perfect circumstances, or physical bodies and faces? Personally, I’ve never figured out why certain dimensions and proportions should be labelled as ‘beauty’. The eyes must be so. The nose just there. Lips a certain way… It doesn’t make sense.” Gertruida stares at the mirror behind the bottles. “Look: Precilla has the same number of ears and eyes  as I have, yet you’ll all agree she’s much more beautiful.”

Her remark triggers a series of coughs and mutters. The men can’t agree or differ without offending one of the two women.

Vetfaan – who arguably has the least to lose, breaks the impasse. “I think men were created as sexual beings. Our job is to do our bit to ensure the survival of mankind. So, ever since the beginning of time, men are instinctively drawn to a certain type of woman. She has to exhibit certain characteristics. Men think boobs are sexy – and maybe they are – but in essence the better-proportioned lady will more likely supply sufficient nourishment for the baby. When men stare at voluptuous hips, they never think about the birthing process that requires certain dimensions to ensure a living mother and baby afterwards.” He quickly scans the group in Boggel’s Place to make sure he’s not offending anybody. “So men were wired to think certain attributes are sexy, and that’s why the old caveman dragged the woman back to his cave. He thought she’s a beauty, but in essense he instinctively chose the best genetic material to procreate.”

“So you’re saying that attractive women instinctively cause men to want to have sex?” A small spark of danger flashes in Precilla’s eyes.

“Think about it. There are two strong life forces, and they both have to do with survival. The one is the will to live – the mortally wounded soldier, trying to crawl back to safety. The other is, quite frankly, sex; the need to produce the next generation. So we are brought up to associate sex and success.  Cars are advertised with a busty blonde draped over the bonnet. Sandy-rumped beach bunnies  convince you to buy fruity drinks. Magazines with scantily-clad models on the cover, sell better than those featuring a rusty mine shaft. Society is at fault here: we’ve allowed the very intimate act of sex to become a social commodity. We use the female body to remind real men what real success is. Only, we don’t define real success as it should be: in the old days it was the assurance there’ll be a next generation. Nowadays, success is the curvy girl who tells you she’ll love you forever if you are man enough to buy the Porsche.” Vetfaan wipes a bead of sweat from his forehead – that was close! Precilla can be a bit of a prude when it comes to discussing sex in public.

“But that still doesn’t answer my question. Why destroy beauty? If a girl has all the right proportions – as you so succinctly put it –  should a man not cherish her? Should he not protect her as the mother of the future? Why kill something so precious?”

“The same reason why men rape a girl to death in Bredasdorp or Delhi. Why a woman gets raped every four minutes in this country. Or why our President has so many wives.” Vetfaan is even more worried now – this is uncharted territory in Boggel’s Place. “It’s called inadequacy.  Men are hunters. They’ll stalk an antelope, and the hunt ends in killing the object of their quest. They want to prove themselves as superior. As much as women bear the hidden promise of survival, men are burdened with the quest to conquer. Self-assured men do not need to boost their egos by proving their sexuality – they’ll be clever enough to fall in love with the biggest sexual organ a woman possesses: the mind.  And then it doesn’t matter if that brain floats around behind a nice-looking face – or a hairless head with squinty eyes. But the chap who need to project success to the community, will carefully select a model, a celebrity, or a beauty queen. He wants to show the world the success of his hunt. She becomes an object – a medal to wear – to make him look good.”

Gertruida pats him on the shoulder. “Well done, Vetfaan, you got out of that one nicely. And I agree with you. These men – the inadequate ones – can only believe in themselves by surrounding them with the thing they lack most: beauty. And then, one day, they realise something terrible: the image and reality aren’t the same. They got what they wanted: the adoration and jealousy of their peers – but deep inside they know: they can’t bluff themselves any more. The paparazzi aren’t following them around because he’s such a great guy – they want the candid shot of a heated argument. And then the poor inadequate man starts doubting even more – can he hold on to this beauty? Won’t she see through him to discover his weaknesses?

“That’s when the arguments start. He gets jealous. He wants to possess her. And that sometimes means he has to kill her to achieve that.”

“You may be right, Gertruida.” Precilla nods quietly. “But what about rape?”

“Take one of these inadequate men –  or a group of them. They simply know they’re not good enough to woo a girl with respect. And remember, in South Africa they hand out condoms in schools – the government is actually encouraging kids to experiment. They’re not trying to take a moral stand, they’re simply trying to cut down on the expense of treating AIDS. The President struts around, bragging with a harem and maybe 40 children. He’s the leader of the country and his message is: Look at me. I’m so successful. I have many wives. I produce numerous offspring.  So, with that example and the encouragement to have sex, the youths of today want to prove their adequacy by having sex, even if they have to force it.”

“And so they destroy beauty?” Boggel’s concern is written all over his face.

“Yes. Whether you shoot somebody through a bathroom door, or rape a girl to death, the inadequate man will rather destroy beauty than admit he doesn’t have the guts to face himself. He’s prepared to throw away his future because he can’t live with the present reality.”

“So the value-system is all skewed? We’ve mixed sex and success and survival – the things people want most – into a recipe to destroy beauty?”

“Sadly, yes.” Gertruida shrugs and spreads her arms wide. “Look at government. Look at advertisements. Look at the heroes we’ve created for ourselves.  Look at society and the signals of success it demands.

“And, while all men aren’t insecure; those that are, get driven to acts that are as violent as they are unacceptable. It may be something that occurs as a spur-of-the-moment madness, or be a permanent  insanity. But, in the few men who succumb to these urges, the result is tragedy. One woman told me: I heard the car door slam, and immediately looked at the clock. I knew then…it was too late..’

“We’re not all like that, Gertruida.” Vetfaan gets up to go. The discussion has really clouded his day. “The majority of men are  good, strong individuals who are completely comfortable with themselves.”

“Then, Vetfaan, it is time for them to get out of their comfort zones and  change the rules. They have to make themselves heard. If they don’t change anything, everything will remain the same.”

A World without Love

Malala Yousafzai

“You mean to tell me they shot her for going to school?” Precilla’s disbelief is tangible. “Why?”

“It’s not so easy to explain. They’ve got the Taliban, see? And they don’t believe in equality over there.  They like to think of women as uneducated, subservient beings; conveniences to be used at leisure.  A woman may be sold, murdered, raped, burnt, disfigured by acid – and they do it in the name of honour and religion.” Gertruida shakes her head. “It’s a male dominated society, so women have become merchandise.

“One must try to understand the basics of Islam  in order to make sense of how it commands society to act. There are five basic pillars to Islam: faith, prayer, charity, fasting and the Hajj. The Quran is very specific about this: it states that man and woman were created from a single soul, and therefore equal before God. Then it states, and I quote:  And of His signs is this: He created for you helpmeets from yourselves that ye might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. So, initially, both Christianity and Islam maintained that man was created to protect woman and love her. In contrast to Arabic custom of the time, Mohammed wrote down that women have rights – he was one of the first to plead for their upliftment. So popular were his teachings about female education, that Fatima al-Fihri founded the first the world’s very first academic degree-granting university. “

“So what went wrong, Gertruida? If the Quran granted women certain rights, and an Islamic woman started the first university, why are women so oppressed under Islam law?” Vetfaan has to concentrate to keep his jaw from dropping. Gertruida’s general knowledge never ceases to astound him.

“The same thing that went wrong with the rest of history. The male ego. Testosterone. The desire to conquer and rule. Most of all wars were fought because of religion or sex or property– cleverly disguised as the quest for justice. In Christianity we have thousands of churches, each proclaiming that they have figured out the correct version of God’s will. They all use the same Bible, but choose to interpret certain sections in certain ways. The Muslims do the same. Islam, like Christianity, isn’t a single belief.”

Precilla still doesn’t understand. “It is difficult to imagine how the order for ‘love and mercy’ between man and wife can be twisted to such an extent that it justifies the shooting of a teenaged girl because she wants to go to school. Something is wrong with that picture.”

“Well, I must say we can’t afford to point fingers at Pakistan, guys.” Sersant Dreyer finishes his beer before going on. “Officially, we had 15,600 murders in 2011/12.  Our murders are amongst the most brutal imaginable. One estimate is that there more than one million women are raped annually in our country. The case of the Indian girl that was gang-raped made the world sit up – and rightly so. But what about the situation here? Can we justify remaining quiet in a society that turns a blind eye to these things? “

“Yes, I think the President should get on a podium and clearly say: enough is enough!” There’s a slight tremor is Servaas’ voice. “Rapists and murderers should be put away for life and stripped of all rights. The punishment must be so severe that people will talk about it in hushed tones. The food must be terrible. The work must be back-breaking. No rights to education, medical care, recreational facilities. The President must be so clear about this, so emphatically determined, that criminals would shudder at the thought of a guilty verdict.”

“That’s the sad thing, Servaas. The President won’t do it, and the churches tell people all sins will be forgiven. All religions have at their foundations the existence of a merciful God that rules over the affairs of mankind. They tell us of a loving God, urging us to follow His commands. No matter if you pray in a mosque or a church or a temple– one should leave with a humble feeling, wanting to do what is right, listening to God’s will.

“It takes a girl raped to death in India, or a teenager being shot at point-blank range in Pakistan to make the world take notice. I wonder when somebody is going to say something about Africa?”

“It’s not the countries, my friends.” Oudoom holds up an admonishing finger. “It’s not even the pure ideals of religion. It’s the culture of crime and destruction. It isn’t God’s fault. We embrace evil, that’s what’s wrong. We love horror movies. Children are fascinated by vampires and blood. We love the fact that 007 is licensed to kill. For some ungodly reason, we love destructive entertainment and our children are exposed to violence from the earliest ages. We are experts in perpetuating abuse and conflict. It is a fact that all cultures developed in a cradle of violence. That’s who we are. Not a single society in the world can claim a non-violent history.

“That’s why religion – pure religion – is so important. It holds up a mirror for us all to see who we really are. And only if we are honest with ourselves, will we acknowledge our terrible shortcomings. That’s why we need effective churches and efficient governments. The churches and religions must turn back to God and stop playing power-games amongst themselves. And governments must realise they have a social contract with the population under their care.”

“Well said, Dominee. When do we start?” Servaas seems almost relieved.

Oudoom sighs and rests his chin on his folded arms on the counter top. “The problem, Brother, is not when. It’s where. It starts in the heart of simple people living in shacks, waiting for the ruling party to supply food packets and monthly grants. It starts in the well-to-do houses of successful businessmen and women, realising their empires rest on the labour of others. It starts with ministers and politicians realising they have a contract with society to be just and fair and respected. It starts with a President who has the courage to tell his parliament that he is sick and tired of abuse and crime and corruption.” He fishes out a handkerchief to dab his eyes. “We must stop thinking God will fix everything. We, all of us, have an obligation to refuse to live in a world without love.”

“So, you’re saying…” Kleinpiet raises an questioning eyebrow.

“Yes, Kleinpiet. It won’t happen.”