VIDEO: South Africa, Corrective Rape Protestors Chant the ‘Amandla Awethu
Melanie Nathan, May 15, 2011,
South Africans have a unique way of protesting. They invoke dance, song, ad-lib words and the old apartheid era “Amandla Awethu!” Amandla is a Xhosa and Zulu word meaning “power”. The word was a popular rallying cry in the days of resistance against Apartheid, used by the African National Congress and its allies. The leader of a group would call out “Amandla!” and the crowd would respond with “Awethu”or “Ngawethu!” (To us), completing the South African version of the rallying cry Power to the People![. The word is still associated with struggles against oppression.
After Apartheid ended, people have begun to use the rallying cry ‘Amandla’ to express their grievances against current government policies including those of the ANC. The Trade Unions still use it during their mass meetings and protests.
Use of the term has also become back into popularity during recent service deliver protests and among poor people’s movements. South Africa’s independent social movements such as Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Anti-Eviction Campaign and the Mandela Park Backyarders use “Amandla Ngawethu!” during their anti-government and anti-political party protests.[ The chant is often used by the movements as a way of beginning or ending a speech as well as quieting down a crowd when a speaker has something important to say.
This weekend a group of protestors rallied outside the South African Parliament in the legislative capital, Cape Town. A recent spate of rapes and murders against young lesbians, have presented as the yet to be legislated hate crime of so called “corrective rape.” The empowered group of activists are concerned that while the DOJ has promised reforms, and even established a Task Force, the government has still a long way to go to protect its citizens from harm and hate, rendering homophobia alive and well and deeply embedded in the townships.
I am proud of the protestors in this video, consisting of close friends, Zanele Muholi, Gareth Dallas, Henry Bantjez and Ndumie Funda, as at last they have grasped the extent of their entitlement, with South Africa being the only country on the continent that embraces “equality” for all, via its inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the context of a predominantly homophobic Africa – a continent that tops weight in favor of criminalizing homosexuality, South Africa, has an awesome constitution. One of the few globally that specifically asserts equality with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. However it falls dramatically short in “walking the talk!” The South African activists are now learning to claim their Constitution – hence Protests must and will increase, notwithstanding action on the part of the Government. The heat must turn to high!
After two years of advocacy and stepped up campaigns – drawing visibility to the issue of the corrective rape, often resulting in murder of lesbians in the Townships of South Africa, the ANC government and Department of Justice under Minister Jeff Radebe, heard the activists – most especially the voice of grassroots via the torch bearing Ndumie Fund of Luleki Sizwe.
A Task force is nigh. But our sister are being raped and murdered as we speak.
By Melanie Nathan