Activist in the gender struggle

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

It is not really surprising that Mmatshilo Motsei wrote and published a confrontational book, The Kanga and Kangaroo Court: Reflections of the Rape Trial of Jacob Zuma.

Motsei is a stalwart who has been championing women's rights for more than two decades. She founded Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training (Adapt) in 1992, when most women dared not speak about domestic violence.

Motsei's magnificent work saw her being seconded to the Office of the President in 1995 to develop policy for women's empowerment focusing mainly on the establishment of the Commission on Gender Equality, Office on the Status of Women and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on the Status of Women.

After developing the policy she expanded her knowledge to other African countries where she facilitated training on violence against women as an obstacle to development for women. Motsei has won numerous awards, including the international human rights award in New York and the UN habitat scroll of honour award.

Though Motsei is still involved in the fight against women abuse, she has now shifted her energy to empowering women spiritually.

Sowetan spent time with her. This is what she had to say about herself.

Question: You are a mother, community organiser, activist, author and poet - how do you do it?

Answer: Interesting question. It sounds like a lot of work for one person. But the truth is I am a mother and the rest are titles I have earned through my journeys to success.

I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for the woman living with my children back at my home.

My helper is my pillar and foundation. She has been looking after my children for the past 10 years without complaining.

When I leave home to conduct research or workshops locally or internationally, I leave with an open heart. I know she will take care of my kids as if they were her own. My family has also been there for me ever since I started this never-ending journey in the early 1990s.

They have supported me emotionally and spiritually. And I thank my parents for teaching me to be a proud black woman. Their teachings are what guide me in helping those women who have been abused.

Q: You were born into a family of spiritual faith healers, how has that impacted on your work?

A: Spirituality is an art and art is a powerful tool towards healing. When I was still actively involved with prevention against women abuse, I used writing as a healing tool.

The diary and the pen would be their close and trusted friend. This is where they were able to tell the world of their terrible ordeals without being ashamed.

Writing still plays a vital role in my healing methods, but in a different way. I now channel my skills into writing. I want to produce a book that will not only heal but create dialogue with readers.

My latest book, The Kanga and Kangaroo Court, Reflections of the Rape Trial of Jacob Zuma, created a huge brouhaha. I was amazed by the response.

I was called many names, from being an extension of the state aimed at discrediting Zuma, to being an outright opportunist.

Q: Talking about the book, what inspired you to write it and what were your expectations after publishing it?

A:The Kanga and Kangaroo Court interrogates the truth about power - not just male power, but political religious, cultural, imperial and military power.

There have been many times where a woman was abused, reported the matter to the police but no action was taken. That woman would then be victimised because she didn't keep quiet.

My book had nothing to do with Jacob Zuma's case. It was used as a mirror. The book reveals the hidden yet public forms of violence against women in their homes, marriages, churches and political organisations.

I knew that The Kanga and Kangaroo Court would stir up emotions.

I expected to be criticised and praised for my work, which is what happened.

As a writer you should be happy when that happens because you can learn a lot from critics.