As journalists we are trained and obliged to remain objective. There is a reason the term is news reporter. Report.
When it comes to issues of gender-based violence, especially living in a country with devastating rape and murder statistics, remaining objective is difficult. To sit in front of a woman as she describes how her panties were ripped off and she endured the worst pain is beyond matters of objectivity and I am unashamed about that. It is painful to listen to and even worse to have to live with those memories.
It’s also no secret that the SA Police Service (SAPS) isn’t always the most welcoming place for victims to report gender-based crimes. So, what hope is left for women and children in this country when in this instance it is the very people entrusted to protect that are alleged to have perpetrated the crime?
It is good that Awie Geldenhuys --- a former police captain in Mpumalanga accused of raping several women -- has been dismissed from the SAPS, but it’s simply not good enough that it only happened this year. These sexual assault allegations stem back as far as 2007. I think in this kind of situation, one allegation should have been enough to raise suspicions. Because those entrusted to serve and protect should be able to do so without any doubt hanging over their name. On the contrary, the alleged perpetrator rose up the police ranks making captain. In the meantime, he had been arrested for rape and accused of rape and sexual assault by several women over the years. There was enough to, at the very least, remove him as a SAPS officer and fully investigate the various claims. I can’t help but wonder whether these tragedies could have been prevented.
I keep asking myself: who do you report it to when it is an officer that commits the crime? I could see the fear and helplessness in the eyes of the women who allegedly suffered at his hands. One of them in particular had allowed our crew to film her wrists covered with scars from years of cutting herself. That man allegedly raped her when she was 16 in the back of a police van taxpayers pay for, in full SAPS uniform while on duty and broke that little girl in a way he will never be able to fathom. She said that Geldenhuys’s police partner sat in the van as he raped her.
It’s hard not to be moved. I am a woman. I cannot help but be moved, angered, heartbroken, hopeless and scared. And I cannot help but live in fear as a woman in this country.
When Maryka Bezuidenhout’s father spoke of his thoughts of his daughter’s last moments alive, one can easily see the sense of helplessness at not being able to protect his girl. When he warned her about Geldenhuys, Maryka applied what most of us have been accustomed to: innocent until proven guilty. She told her father he hasn’t been found guilty of any of the allegations. She was safe. Two days later she was in a mortuary.
A 3-year-old little girl is without her mother and will never know her mother. That is the reality of the situation. Many lives have been broken into pieces over one man’s alleged actions.
When will it be enough? When will these men stop raping women and children? When will these men stop killing their partners? What is it going to take to shift things? This year men and women filled the streets protesting against gender-based violence after the shocking news of Uyinene Mrwetyana’s rape and murder at a post office. Does this not shock perpetrators anymore? I honestly don’t know what will shift mindsets, what will make it clear that it is not business as usual. Women are under siege. Something needs to change.