An online petition calling on President Jacob Zuma to axe Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana has garnered almost 2 000 signatures. File photo

An online petition calling on President Jacob Zuma to axe Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana had garnered almost 2 000 signatures by yesterday, with some baying for his arrest.

But Zuma remained silent on the matter during his Women’s Day speech in Kimberley where he addressed the challenges of gender equity and gender-based violence.

The petition, started on campaign website on Tuesday, condemns Manana’s alleged assault of three women at a Joburg nightclub on Sunday. 

Manana apparently confessed to slapping one of the women, during a telephone call to Phesheya Duma, whose sister Mandisa was among the three victims. 

A video of the beating as well as photos of a bruised Mandisa sparked outrage on social media this week. Mandisa laid a charge of assault.

In an “unreserved” apology to Mandisa and her family on Monday, Manana said he would co-operate 
fully with the legal process. campaigner Nqaba Mpofu said the petition called for Manana’s dismissal and not necessarily for his arrest because they believed it was imminent.  “If the law functions in South Africa, he will be arrested and the law will take its course, failing which will raise questions of the police’s execution of the law. Failing to arrest him will imply that as a senior government official, he is untouchable.”

She said that was why the petition was calling on Zuma, who hires and fires ministers, to send a loud, clear message condemning Manana’s actions by showing him the door. 

“Manana is a public figure and as such should know the expectations of him. Keeping him in the employ of the government will undermine ongoing efforts to develop and implement a comprehensive, fully funded National Strategic Plan to prevent, combat and respond to GBV. Manana must be dismissed if we want to send a clear message that when you strike a woman you strike a rock,” said Mpofu.

On Monday,  police spokesperson Vuyo Mhaga said an investigation into the incident had been concluded. But on Wednesday he said it was at an advanced stage. He said the matter would be handed over to a senior public prosecutor for a decision on whether to prosecute and this would inform the decision regarding his arrest.

In his Women’s Day speech, Zuma made no mention of the incident although he said the police had been directed to treat crimes against women and children as “an apex priority”.

“We wish to emphasise that nobody is above the law when it comes to crimes against women. All persons, regardless of position in society must face the full might of the law when they attack women and children,” he said.

Commission for Gender Equity spokesperson Javu Baloyi said the commission would also investigate. “The commission believes in a country where 182 933 women suffered grievous bodily harm and 164 958 suffered common assault as per the latest SAPS statistics, the actions of Deputy Minister Manana deserve to be condemned in the strongest terms. This is especially reprehensible and inexcusable during Women’s Month.”

The Mercury