#RapeAtAzania: What our response is telling of us

By Wandile Dlamini (@Wandile_Dlamini)



There was a rape at Azania.

Azania, our supposed home.

Where we are supposed to be safe, feel safe. And this has to be an urgent wake up call for us to reflect on all that we’re doing.

The magic about Azania is that it is more than a geographic location: it moves with us; it’s contained within us; the collective personal politics of individuals who put their bodies on the line to fight for Azania.

A hashtag like #RapeAtAzania should be contradictory because Azania as a space is supposed to be a one of refuge… a space that we come to after experiencing teargas, rubber bullets and police brutality; a space that we go to in order to flee the institutional and social violence. We are not supposed to have violations of safety, psyche and bodies at Azania.

And yet here we are.

There was a rape at Azania.

And on multiple levels this occurrence has blown the lid opened of an over boiling/pressure pot of conversations (and confrontation of reality) that need to happen.

On failed intersectionality

Azania needs to be an intersectional space that actively held people accountabile and finds it necessary to do so.

Because in Azania, womxn rest, march and eat alongside patriarchs; queer bodies dine and protest with homophobes; and trans* people sit, mobilise and occupy along with transphobes all under the same name, fighting for supposedly the same cause. How does this make sense? Who are we liberating at Azania? How then we call this an intersectional space by tokenising certain bodies. Yet the failure of Azania being an intersectional space is violent and ostracises us queer trans womxn from returning to the space.

If Azania practiced intersectionality, there wouldn’t be an extraordinary need for people to prove why someone’s presence or actions is violent.

It wouldn’t be an uphill battle to get Azania to talk about patriarchy and hypermasculinity

It wouldn’t be an uphill battle to get Azania to swiftly deal with violent people in the space

There wouldn’t be a need for us to prove why dealing with patriarchy is of importance

All of these things would happen naturally in an intersectional space.

But Azania is not an intersectional space… At least, not yet.

On outsourced intersectionality

Since the statue of Rhodes was removed, it catalysed a new era in the UCT space. After Rhodes Must Fall many different student movements have sprung up, tackling a different aspect of the decolonial project.

The decolonial project is inherently intersectional. And although all these are focused on a particular aspect of the kyriarchy, all of them must be intersectional in their particual aspect.

All these various student movements joined together to initiate #FeesMustFall at UCT, meeting at Azania for planning purposes. And from the beginning it was clearly stated and agreed upon that #feesmustfall would also be an intersectional space. As #feesmustfall grew, the issue of hypermasculinity began to infiltrate the space; and immediately the womxn in the space vocalised their frustration with this space continuing with unchecked unchallenged patriarchy and violent masculinity.

The first approach suggested an executed was a call for #PatriarchyMustFall, a student movement committed to #feesmustfall, to host a discussion on challenging masculinity in #Feesmustfall. And unsurprisingly, those who needed the education the most were not the ones who attended. Because masculinity is fragile.

And even though we have tired our voices, until they’ve become hoarse, pleading to a so called intersectional space to take the matter of patriarchy seriously, a degree of the required seriousness has only come now, after the rape at Azania; after this unchecked pervasive culture manifested itself in a violating physical act. It is disgusting that this space needed a violating act before such a matter is taken seriously.

The plenary after the rape at Azania was hosted outside on the lawn because how can we be expected to enter that space & continue per usual after that space has been the site of violence?

A recurring sentiment — not just from this meeting — was that dealing with patriarchy in #FeesMustFall is the sole responsibility of #PatriarchyMustFall.

What does it mean for a space that spearheaded the end of outsourcing to find it legitimate to outsource their intersectionality to #PatriarchyMustFall? How does that reconcile with our politics?

It’s tokenism, it is laziness and it is a failure to take responsibility – both collectively as a space and individually. There needs to be a thorough examination of how we practice our intersectionality and that must be done by the whole space, not mandated for a specific section


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