by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – REVIVED calls for the castration of convicted rapists might be radical but are a reflection of the anger at the shocking levels of rape in South Africa.
The fact that the most outcry bellows from the ruling party is a concession that the government has failed to eradicate the scourge of femicide and gender-based violence, dubbed the second pandemic.
South Africa has for years garnered an unenviable reputation as the “rape capital of the world” but the dimension the rapes have taken in recent times has sent shockwaves.
According to the crime statistics for the first quarter of 2022, some 153 people are on average raped daily.
The latest is a series of such horrors, last Thursday, a group of armed assailants attacked, robbed and gang-raped some eight women that were shooting a music video at a disused mine near Krugersdorp, east of Johannesburg.
Rape and femicide cases have coincided with Women’s Month which South Africa marks the entire August.
“It has been a tragic start to Women’s Month,” lamented President Cyril Ramaphosa.
He denounced rape and other forms of gender-based violence as “the dark and ugly side of our society.”
“These horrible acts of brutality are an affront to the right of women and girls to live and work in freedom and safety.”
This past weekend, Ramaphosa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) held its policy conference in Johannesburg.
The surge in mass shootings and rampant rapes that have been escalating were among other issues that were lamented.
As part of solutions mentioned to curb rape is chemical transformation, which the ANC Social Transformation Sub-committee is agitating for. This is akin to calls for the death sentence to be reinstated amid the high murder rates in South Africa.
Lindiwe Sisulu, chairperson of the above-mentioned ANC committee, confirmed that at the recent summit, ANC members advocated for the government to chemically castrate individuals convicted of rape.
The ANC Women’s League has previously proposed chemical castration as a solution, notably the 2017 conference in Johannesburg, but it was rejected.
Following the discussions at the conference this past weekend, Sisulu disclosed the proposal will again be on the agenda at the next elective conference, where she coincidentally is tipped to challenge Ramaphosa for the presidency of the party.
“We’re putting it forward again. We are waiting to see what the conference will say,” Sisulu stated.
There has been opposition among some civil society organisation to the proposal.
This is because of some cases in South Africa where cases of wrong arrests that end up with individuals being wrongfully convicted being released at a later stage.
Chemical castration lowers the levels of male hormones, or androgens. Side effects can include reduced or absent sexual desire.
An observer, Michael De Kock, highlighting the prevalence of rape, lampooned, “We’ll run out of chemicals within a year.”
The rape in Krugersdorp has not only revived calls for this form of castration but aggravated hostility towards foreign nationals.
This amid accusations the perpetrators have been men from neighbouring Lesotho. They are known as zama zama (Zulu for try and try again), the local meaning individuals operating illegally in abandoned mineshafts in order to retrieve metals or minerals.
At their peak, these mines earned Johannesburg the status of the City of Gold.
The zama zama are accused of terrorising local communities.
On Monday, more than 80 suspects appeared before the Krugersdorp Magistrates Court following their arrest by police.
They are appearing on charges related to illegal mining, contravention of the Immigration and possession of suspected stolen goods.
Bheki Cele, the under fire Minister of Police, confirmed investigators would fast-track deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing to ascertain if any of the suspects are linked to the rape.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) has a massive DNA samples backlog. Some police stations reportedly have shortages of rape kits but Cele denied this.
The opposition has reiterated calls for Cele to be fired.
This also follows the reported killings of 38 people during mass shootings across South Africa in July.
Okkie Terblanche, Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister of Police, said Cele had constantly failed over the last decade at the helm of police.
“He has blood on his hands,” Terblanche said.
World Population Review placed South Africa as the country with the most prevalent rape in 2010. It is now ranked third.
On Sunday, a new legal provision came into effect compelling citizens to report to authorities when we have knowledge, belief or suspicion of a sexual offence.
It is now a crime not to report such a sexual offence.
This is part of three laws Ramaphosa signed earlier this year that strengthen the fight against gender-based violence and offer support and protection to survivors.
“We have made a start but as the terrible crimes in Krugersdorp remind us, we need to do much more and we need to act with greater urgency and purpose,” the president said.
– CAJ News