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Pants ban victims speaks

A triumphant Zandile Mpanza is hoisted into the air by members of women's rights organisations outside the Umlazi Regional Court. Picture: Gcina Dwalane

A triumphant Zandile Mpanza is hoisted into the air by members of women's rights organisations outside the Umlazi Regional Court. Picture: Gcina Dwalane

Published May 16, 2011

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Four years ago, Zandile Mpanza was assaulted and stripped naked for wearing pants in Umlazi’s T-section.

On Friday, she boldly wore the offending garment in the Umlazi Regional Court as she watched her attackers being sentenced.

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Mpanza, who is studying for a social science degree, was beaten up and made to walk naked in public in Umlazi’s T section in 2007 for defying a ban on women wearing pants in the area.

Residents said the ban was imposed after women wearing trousers and disguised as men had gained entry to a hostel in the area and killed an IFP leader in the 1980s.

Brothers Thulani, 51, and Sibusiso Cele, 29, were convicted of indecent assault, malicious damage to property and incitement in connection with the incident. Sibusiso was also convicted of common assault.

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Magistrate Martin Prinsloo said the men had shown no remorse for their actions.

“You take no responsibility for your actions. What you were to gain is difficult to say.”

Prinsloo sentenced Thulani to four years in prison under correctional supervision, which means he has to serve at least eight months before he can be considered for release. If released, Thulani could be subjected to house arrest and would have to undergo correctional services programmes for the remainder of his sentence.

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Sibusiso was given a three-year sentence, wholly suspended for five years, on condition that he is not convicted of similar crimes in that period.

Mpanza, who cried as her attackers were removed from the court by police, said she was delighted with the sentence.

“I’m happy. It has taken a long time, but it was worth the wait.

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“Justice has finally been done and I feel great. I do not regret speaking up and I hope that more women will be able to do the same after this,” said Mpanza.

Asked if she had deliberately worn trousers to court, Mpanza said she wanted to show that she was not afraid.

“I wanted to show them that I will always dress the way I want. I choose what I wear; no one else.”

She added that there was still oppression in T section and women in the area were still not allowed to wear pants.

“I will never go back there (T section). People from that community have intimidated me throughout the court case. Sitting in the courtroom, they would whisper things to me.”

T section residents in court, including women, hurled insults at Mpanza as she celebrated with women from the Domestic Violence Programme outside the court.

Mpanza laughed and smiled when a woman, believed to be a relative of the Celes, told her to “voetsek”, and continued to sing.

The Commission for Gender Equality, which represented Mpanza in the Umlazi Equality Court in 2007, resulting in the pants ban being declared unconstitutional, also welcomed the sentencing.

“The sentencing and incarceration of the accused has sent a clear deterrent message that injustice against women in our society will not be tolerated, and that the law will ensure that offenders will be held accountable,” it said. - The Mercury

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