MEC of Community Safety Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane is seen speaking about the 16 days of Activism against women and children at the Gauteng Legislature. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency/ANA

Johannesburg - During this year's #16DaysofActivism, IOL puts the spotlight on those who dedicate their lives to fighting violence against women and children.

She remembers it vividly - the early morning she and her husband were called out to a local hostel to assist a family friend who had just been raped. It was a relentless ordeal. Between rushing to the Alexandra township police station to obtain a J88 form, which would form a crucial basis of evidence for the police, and speeding back to the nearby clinic where she was being attended to, one thing was clear - the justice system failed the victim. 

Her friend had not received any personal care from 5.30am until 5.30pm.

"I remember her saying I need a shower. I still feel this bastard's smell on me," she says. This is what led current Gauteng MEC of Community Safety Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane to establish, Bombani, a shelter for abused woman and young girls in the township which has been running since 1999.

"I hate rapists. I hate anyone who even attempts to rape a woman."

Her work as a government official has exposed her to a plethora of high profile femicide cases which includes that of Karabo Mokoena and the case of Palesa Madiba, whose remains were found in a shallow grave at a friend's home in Soweto in December 2015.

Nkosi-Malobane’s condemnation of sexual harassment and violence against women is not restricted to incidents visible in public. 

It also extends to violations that occur behind closed doors in political circles and the corporate world where patriarchy continues to manifest itself.

This year, The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that  "almost half of women in politics have faced serious abuse, including threats of murder, rape and assault."  

In some instances, there are male politicians who have been found wanting for their grim actions against women outside their political careers or their spouses.

"At a personal level, no one has attempted anything against me. I've never been sexually harassed but I've seen some women who have been victims. I was very vocal when Mduduzi Manana slapped that woman. I was also vocal with the Grace Mugabe assault. To me, I don't care who you are. If you do something wrong I will talk about it because raping women, sexually harassing women and abusing your partner is wrong." 

She admits that in the past she's had to reprimand a number of her male colleagues which has led to her being isolated.

"I've spoken about it to such an extent that they feel uncomfortable with me because they are of the view that I'm intruding in their private lives. I don't bloody care. If you beat up a woman, I will talk about it. I don't care if I lose a position (in government) just as long as the issue of rape, abuse and injustices against vulnerable people is addressed."

While the phenomenon of blessers continues to rear its ugly head in the country, so has the trend of some young women within political party structures finding themselves returning sexual favours for opportunities or prospective jobs.

"I've heard of such stories. I've confronted some of those men. For me, they are not better men."

She adds: "I've heard of girls who will say that once you are given a tender by this person, they immediately make an appointment with you at a hotel, give you the room number and key, sleep with you and leave you there. It's even happening in the business sector. Sometimes as a mother, you're scared for your own child. My 20-year-old daughter Ntombikayise is studying law but I'm scared that when she seeks to join a law firm with a large portion of men what will happen to her. Will she have the same willpower that I have? Will she be strong like me and never allow men to take advantage of her?  I've seen girls who I believed were strong and later discover otherwise when they come to me and say this is what happened to me."

She also adds that if she were to confront plenty of men in public, most of them would see their marriages end.

Nkosi-Malobane who began her political career with the Congress of South African Students and rose up the ranks of the ANC says she always informs young women, even at the branch level, that “If you know that you have worked hard for your qualification and want that job, make sure you get it for free. Don't reduce your standards to anything else.”

Over the years, the ANC Women's League has been heavily criticised for either defending some male leaders involved in gender-based violence incidents and shunning the victims or being selective in their condemnation of certain cases thus leaving little space for young women and girls to approach them openly with their issues.

But Nkosi-Malobane disagrees.

"Perhaps it seems that way for people outside the ANC. I became active in this party when I was 13. The people who made me feel safe were older women in the ANC such as Mama Sisulu, Jessie Duarte and many more.  These are the women who received me when I was a young girl, naive and never exposed to sex. What I am today is what I've learnt from them. These are women who paved the way. They taught me what patriarchy is and how to identify a chauvinist as well as what sexism is. Therefore, there are definitely platforms for modern young girls to talk to us. I'm now that older women in the ANC who is creating safe spaces for the young ones."

In efforts to reduce the crisis of femicide in South Africa, Nkosi-Malobane says it is vital that society and communities continue to talk on behalf of those who are silent or silenced. 

"I also believe that if men are the ones who don't stand up we will not win this war because these are their daughters, wives, mothers, aunts and grandmothers who are violated and they need to act before it is too late."

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