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Van Damme calls out Somizi for 'perpetuating a very harmful narrative'

Ex-MP says presenters need to educate themselves about women's rights

Former DA MP Phumzile Van Damme
Former DA MP Phumzile Van Damme
Image: Esa Alexander

Former member of parliament Phumzile van Damme has called out Somizi Mhlongo for what she regards as perpetuating a harmful narrative in a country that has a problem of gender-based violence (GBV).  

Van Damme, a consultant on anti-misinformation and communication strategy, criticised the Ask A Man host on Metro FM for saying the country might not be able to change how men treat women, however, women have the control to change how they want to be treated. 

The video, which was recorded during the show, was shared on Twitter by Khutso Theledi, Mhlongo's co-host, and it received mixed reactions from the public. Van Damme said what Mhlongo expressed on air was a damaging belief to blame women for their own abuse. 

Speaking to Sowetan on Thursday after calling out the radio station on Twitter, Van Damme said: “This is not only incredibly ignorant, it is also harmful disinformation spoken on radio and given a megaphone on social media.

"The SABC as a public broadcaster has a big educational role to play in public and all its presenters need to familiarise themselves with that. Victim blaming does not work, it abrogates the responsibilities of perpetrators. He needs to apologise and commit to learning a little bit more so that he shares the right information,” she said.  

“What I found appalling was Khutso Theledi, who is the co-host of the show, sharing such and spreading it further, perpetuating a very harmful narrative. There has to be a greater responsibility around not amplifying disinformation. The SABC needs to take it seriously. Dealing with women’s rights needs presenters to educate themselves about what is a crisis in South Africa.” 

Mhlongo, who was responding to a listener, said on the show: “We might not be able to change how men treat women, but women have the control to change how they want to be treated. The buck stops there.

"If you as a mother you were not able to do that, please teach your daughters. You know Khutso, those steps [life stages steps] they talk about negatively as if you are holier than thou? Those steps are bigger than we think they are. The steps of using protection until you are engaged and married.

"I don’t want to sound judgmental, I want to sound like a person who brings sense to why these steps have to be followed. I, myself, failed to follow those steps but it does not mean I cannot teach my daughter to make sure she does not skip those steps for her not to call Ask A Man.” 

Sowetan tried to get a comment from Mhlongo about the public reaction, but he did not respond. 

Acting group executive in corporate affairs and marketing, Mmoni Seapolelo confirmed that SABC received complaints regarding Mhlongo's statement.

“The SABC can confirm that the corporation received a few complaints regarding this matter and the radio station is dealing with it”


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