Cape Town -
Under the guise of the African cultural practice of ukuthwala – the “kidnapping” of a girl to force marriage negotiations – men have abducted and raped women.
The practice has been condemned by ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) president Angie Motshekga, who at the league’s national policy conference this week appealed for ukuthwala to be abolished, calling it a “harmful cult”.
The condemnation came after the Western Cape’s first conviction for a crime committed with the excuse that it was the practice of ukuthwala.
Mvumeleni Jezile, 32, was convicted for the trafficking and rape of an Eastern Cape teenager during an arranged marriage.
He was jailed for 22 years by the Wynberg Regional Court in February.
It was also the province’s second successful conviction in human trafficking.
At the policy conference Motshekga said: “Harmful “cultural” practices like ukuthwala and virginity-testing should be abolished.
“Women must take charge in the issue of health check-ups for their children that will result in early diagnosis of any health challenges.
“They must establish partnerships with Traditional Health Practitioners and nurses to be kept abreast of the children’s progress in the Initiation Schools. The ANCWL calls for access to police crime statistics to make interventions in all areas and to work together with the circumcision monitoring structures.”
Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, chairwoman of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, said it would be wrong of the government to try to impose the abolishment.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, a vocal promoter and defender of the practice, said the ANCWL and Motshekga should instead focus their efforts on working with the police to arrest and prosecute those men who raped, abused and murdered in the name of ukuthwala.
The commission would not stop promoting the practice, she said.
“The distinction between ukuthwala and the unlawful abduction of virgins by older men needs to be understood. It is not for government to impose laws on how men and women should date. If they want to participate in ukuthwala, they should have a right to do so. They should spend their time trying to bring the perpetrators to book,” she said.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said ukuthwala was most prominent in the Xhosa and Zulu cultures between two consenting adults who faced difficulty being together because lobola negotiations had collapsed.
The couple would agree on staging the woman’s abduction, contact her family to tell them of her whereabouts and call for negotiations to continue.
The commission recently released its report on public hearings and research on the practice.
During a briefing on the report, Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said the National Prosecuting Authority had found the practice had taken an illegal tangent where some girls, as young as 12 years old, were abducted and forcibly married to older men.