Politics must take back seat on issues of sexual assault

19 June 2018 - 10:11
By Palesa Lebitse
Safa president Danny Jordaan.
Image: Thulani Mbele Safa president Danny Jordaan.

A few weeks ago, Danny Jordaan successfully clinched another term as president of the South African Football Association (Safa).

This was despite being called a "rapist" by Jennifer Ferguson who vehemently and confidently accused him of raping her in 1993 and remains steadfast in her quest for justice.

What is interesting is that the cloud hanging over Jordaan did not even hinder his candidacy to lead the football association again.

Nobody at Safa publicly reckoned with the sordid allegation(s), not even the women in the association. In fact, it seems the dust had in fact settled for Jordaan long time ago. There was no need for anybody to defend him and nobody grappled with the issue either.

Increasingly strange was that influencers in the republic were equally silent. There is no reckoning from our country's public figures, a single politician or prominent writers in the media.

Those who have enough influence on how others understand such issues said nothing and continue to say nothing. There is no shock, no fear and no reflection on how we should be dealing with such issues.

Could this be so because our society has become so complacent when it comes to issues of sexual violation? Like Jacob Zuma, Jordaan is instead a victim of a grand conspiracy engineered by his rivals, or former rivals? Why does our society find this veiled defence so acceptable in the face of our high sexual offences statistics?

A friend of mine thinks that this is due to our history. We are so accustomed to protecting our leaders, at all costs, since the apartheid days.

The victim card was successfully played by Zuma, albeit he was found not guilty and now it is played by Jordaan.

However, in contrast, the world is finally standing against sexual violations. Women who are coming out citing #Metoo have no physical evidence or witnesses to back up their claims.

However, unlike before, they are believed.

This is furthermore despite the fact that it may have happened many years ago, just like in the alleged case of Jordaan.

Women in many parts of the world are believed, because there is no reason to doubt their allegations. There is no room for partisans when it comes to sexual violation.

Our judiciary has also recently confirmed that there should be no law which prevents the prosecution of sexual abuse, albeit it happened 20 years ago.

The Constitutional Court has confirmed that all sexual offences cases have merit and the court further held that it "accepted that the survivors of sexual assault face similar personal, social and structural disincentives when reporting these offences and that the harm caused by sexual offences is similar, regardless of whether it is the consequence of rape or other forms of sexual assault".

Is it perhaps not the time to be more cognisant of how we react to allegations of sexual violation and how we defend the indefensible despite our mantras of innocent until proven guilty or that a comrade is being set up?

It is important to recognise that matters of this nature have little to do with partisanship.

That said, I wonder when will we also experience our moment of reckoning with sexual violation in South Africa?

When will we believe people the first time when they say they have been sexually violated?

Can we please talk about the reasons why Safa is prepared to continue being led by a man still accused of rape?