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Of Toxic Women and Toxic Men

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    Nat Quinn
    Recently a number of arrogant (the fashionable derogatory term in South African politics in October) toxic women on the local and national scene have been getting my goat.
    Some of them have long been on my radar: they blip on the minute they start operating (and be assured these are usually expert operators) on social media: posting narcissistic selfies, extolling their often creatively spun credentials, trotting out trite homilies and quotes suitable only for the bottom of an email or simply just imploring us to pay them some attention.
    Many of the toxic females on my personal Women to Keep a Beady Eye On list have a tendency to slip into the confusing Royal We, but mostly they favour excessive use of the first person singular even when representing an institution or a grouping. They come in many colours and are found in many sectors, but there’s a plethora of them in media, communications, Diversity, Equality and Inclusion consultancies, and of course politics.
    If this were Twitter I would by now have been accused of sub tweeting because I am talking about people without directly naming or directing my remarks to them. It’s apparently a heinous social media crime.
    But this is not Twitter (unless Elon Musk has yet more plans we know nothing of) and I have no intention of naming all the females on my Watch List right now.
    Except for one.
    She is an elected representative of the city in which I live, so she’s fair game, and it is my opinion that Tshikani Colleen Makhubele, the latest Speaker of Johannesburg City Council, is playing a central role in helping the city fall apart.
    I base this in part on a peculiar tweet she addressed to residents at the end of last month.
    In her cheery but cryptic morning message Makhubele thought it appropriate to bids us to “have no fear…it’s a countdown”. She goes on to talk of ‘luring ‘the tiger’, of waiting ‘leisurely for an exhausted enemy’…’to wear down the enemy’. She attaches a graphic with the message “Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.”
    Presumably she was referring to her attempts to keep the Democratic Alliance and ActionSA out of power in the city. But there’s a distinct note of Filkile Mbalula-ism in her messaging. Also perhaps, a rather frightening sense that she is on some sort of divine mission.
    Of course, it is by their deeds, not their tweets, that we shall know them, so it is worth bearing in mind that Makhubele is a Speaker who has been found by a court to have convened and presided over an illegal council meeting. She has also made it blindingly obvious that she is unlikely to be even-handed or impartial in her approach to the DA or ActionSA in council meetings.
    Various internet biographical entries on Giyani-born Makhubele reveal an almost textbook, model career trajectory of an empowered and affirmed female entrepreneur in South Africa. It includes scholarships and foreign funding and  her ‘co-founding’ of a company involved in the fashionable world of ICT, PPE and oil and diesel contracts, before she began setting her sights on politics. She is clearly no slouch at getting ahead.
    Naturally she also wants ‘to be a role model for girls’.
    Makhubele joined the Congress of the People (COPE) about a year ago. She was nominated as its mayoral candidate and became the only COPE person to be elected to Council in last year’s election, in which the party got under 1% of the vote.
    I will watch Makhubele closely. Maybe my instincts will be proved wrong, but I fear this newly minted politician at the centre of the Johannesburg coalition is another grifter, poisoning our chances of getting effective local government.
    But time now to turn from my personal take on toxic womanhood to the subject of undeniably evil toxic masculinity.
    The country is still trying to process the fact that charges were dropped against 13 men and a minor in the case of the rape of 8 women in Krugersdorp earlier this year. We must also digest the news that a serial rapist has pleaded guilty to 93 rapes over10 years in and around Ekhurhuleni, at the time when President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed delegates at the second Presidential summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in Midrand at the start of this month.
    Ramaphosa gave the summit some of the latest horror statistics.
    According to SA Police Service data, sexual offences and rape increased by 13 per cent between 2017/18 and 2021/2. Between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022 there was a 52 per cent increase in the murder of women, and a 46 per cent increase in the number of children murdered.
    Ramaphosa described these as ‘barbaric acts” which were “a shameful indictment of the men of this country”.
    At this point I’d like to dip out of discussion of all the bad things men do to acknowledge that good men still exist.
    The ordinary, common or garden South African husband, boyfriend, lover, who does not rape, batter, intimidate, threaten, abuse, or get nasty with his partner or women or children in any way, is still around, even though he is almost entirely left out of the media these days.
    There are also still dads who stick with their baby mamas, or see their kids as often as they can, who pay alimony or papgeld, even if they don’t get to see their kids regularly, who play father and guardian to other men’s children or their own adopted kids.
    Ramaphosa told the summit “We need to reach out to boys and young men to develop masculinities that value respect, understanding and accountability.”
    He suggested programmes, along the lines of the  Primestars youth development project operating under the hashtag of # whataboutheboys that would help redefine masculinity for South Africa boys and men. He talked of everyone getting behind dialogues, outreach and awareness-raising activities and naturally, he also asked for more private funding for all these costly interventions.
    I take issue with Ramaphosa piling it all on men and exonerating women from any responsibility.
    But I suppose it was to be expected that the President would refrain from mentioning a couple of crucial things that have a direct bearing on our chances of preventing, not simply reacting to, all these horrific acts being perpetrated on vulnerable people in our society.
    Things such as the failure of his government to govern properly:
    Government has shown itself unable to provide us with effective, devolved, skilled policing that is free of corruption; a supportive, adequately resourced social worker network; a properly administered justice and prisons system; infrastructure such as street lighting and safe public transport. I could go on. But you get the gist.
    Ramaphosa could perhaps also have mentioned the effect of lockdown and the struggling economy which has left more women powerless and without income of their own, millions more men aimless, without jobs or hope and with dangerous low self -esteem.
    Ramaphosa could also have mentioned that 40 per cent of the population consists of single mothers and that research around the world has shown how this has negative impacts on their children, their behaviour and their sexual relations and conduct. Then of course there’s the cultural elephant that doesn’t seem to have made it into the room: lobola and its impacts on the way people approach women and long-term commitments. But mentioning this may just be a step too far for an ANC leader trying to hang onto voters in whatever shape or form.
    Ramaphosa should also not have been ready to let women off any responsibility for changing the way things are.
    Women in the form of mothers, grannies, aunties and teachers, bringing up, nurturing and teaching children are as responsible as men, absent or present, for the way those children turn out.
    “As a society, ending violence against women and children cannot be anything but our foremost priority”, Ramaphosa told the summit.
    No, Mr President. Your and our first priority should be to get government to stop trying to control everything. That’s the action we need.
    Free the economy from all its artificial strictures, and unemployment will decrease significantly, people’s lives and psyches will improve and we’ll make a big dent in the horrendous statistics.


    Of Toxic Women and Toxic Men – Daily Friend

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