Evidence alone can condemn rapists to jail

 

26 July 2020

The story about DJ Fresh, Thato Sikwane, dragging poet Ntsiki Mazwai to court and, in the process, revealing details of the dramatic end of his relationship with media personality Penny Lebyane 19 years ago, is as tragic as it is a timely lesson for all.

The saga started when DJ Fresh was accused of rape on social media by poet Mazwai. Fresh contended that no such thing happened and, as he was entitled, went to court to enforce his rights. Understandably, the courts required evidence from those who made the claims.


Judge Brian Spilg found this week that Mazwai was tjatjarag – she spoke publicly about things she could not prove. Mazwai was duly instructed to refrain from harming DJ Fresh’s image by speaking without evidence.

Lebyane, meanwhile, was accused by DJ Fresh of trying to force his friends off the road in what read like a scene reminiscent to Hollywood movies. As a consequence, he alleged that he obtained a restraint order against Lebyane – a charge she refutes.

Feeling violated, Lebyane has duly appointed lawyers to take action against DJ Fresh. In the process, South Africans witnessed Lebyane sadly break down in a car. They listened to her admirable determination not to be bullied into silence.

While many commiserated with her for her pain, others made fun of her pain. Some went as far as digging up her past posts on Babes Wodumo and using her very critical commentary on her. Such are the perils of social media.

It is important that, as a people, we are consistent and united on a few fronts. This must, in this context, include that the rule of law is supreme. We must accept that the law says everyone, men and women, are innocent until proven guilty. The clamour to veer from established legal precepts and announce people as guilty until they prove their innocence marks a descent into jungle justice. That must never be supported.

Second, we must unite in our fight against a pandemic of a special type called gender-based violence. Many women die needlessly at the hands of those they (wrongly) believed loved and cared for them. Toxic masculinity must be fought and defeated with haste, regardless of the perpetrator’s station in life. Of what use will our freedom be if women remain in bondage?

Third, we must also agree that the justice system is far from perfect. Inevitably, many who have legitimate cases may be turned away not because of a fault of their own.

A solution to this though can never be jungle justice. This is a great disservice to the real victims, as Mazwai learned this week, which tends to end in mounting legal costs and possible secondary victimisation.

Last, a solution therefore is unity against the scourge and figuring out how to methodically gather evidence that will help society put perpetrators away for good. Harvey Weinstein, for example, knows that this strategy works. The key element to the success in Weinstein’s and many other cases, as Mazwai found out this week, is that key ingredient to the process – evidence.

 

 

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