Conversations with myself: I am Woman . . .

Flowers feed the soul

In South Africa we celebrate National Women’s Day on August 9th each year. Our Government has declared the entire month of August National Women’s month.

In spite of all the new laws and legislation, we still grapple with gender equality in our country. Women who stay home to take care of the home and/or children are classified as “not working” when, in fact, they end up working harder than those who go out to work in the formal employment sector.

Most of the work women do is unpaid labour – what do I mean by this? When the woman is employed in the formal labour sector and gets paid for the work done, she still has work waiting at home for which she does not get paid a salary, for example: washing and ironing clothes, cooking, cleaning the home, taking care of the children. All this is left to the woman to do and she does not receive any additional payment for these duties. Community work – the woman may choose to serve her community in some way by volunteering her time and skills, again, she does not get paid for this work.

Men come home from the office, sit in the armchair in front of the television with their newspaper and wait for supper to be served (by the woman). More and more men are choosing to stay home as “stay-at-home-dads” these days but mostly because they cannot find work – very few do this out of choice.
So where does this leave us? When will the status quo change when a woman will receive acknowledgement for the work she does at home? Let’s take a look at the story below and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.


“What is your job?” asked the doctor.
“I am a farmer” replied Mr Moyo

“Have you any children?” the doctor asked.
“God has not been good to me. Of 15 born, only 9 alive,” Mr Moyo answered.

“Does your wife work?” (doctor)
“No, she stays at home”.

“I see. How does she spend her day?” (doctor)
“Well, she gets up at four in the morning, fetches water and wood, makes the fire, cooks breakfast and cleans the homestead. Then she goes to the river and washes clothes. Once a week she walks to the grinding mill. After that she goes to the township with the two smallest children where she sells tomatoes by the roadside while she knits. She buys what she wants from the shops. Then she cooks the midday meal.”

“You come home at midday?” (doctor)
“No, no, she brings the meal to me about 3km away.”

“And after that?” (doctor)
“She stays in the field to do the weeding, and then goes to the vegetable garden to water.”

“What do you do?” (doctor)
“I must go and discuss business and drink with the men in the village.”

“And after that?” (doctor)
“I go home for supper which my wife has prepared.”

“Does she go to bed after supper?” (doctor)
“No. I do. She has things to do around the house until 9 or 10.”

“but I thought you said your wife does not work.” (doctor)
“Of course she does not work. I told you that she stays at home.”

(Source: Presented by the Women and Development Sub-committee Ministry of Community Development and Community Affairs, Zimbabwe to Women’s Regional Ecumenical Workshop, 26 June – 6 July 1989, Harare, Zimbabwe).
The Oxfam Gender Training Manual © Oxfam UK and Ireland 1994: 183

Conversations with myself: Understanding Criminal Thinking


This past week I spent two days at a workshop hosted by National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) on the subject of Criminal Behaviour Foundations: Understanding Criminal Thinking.

I found this workshop very interesting and informative because I learnt that criminal behaviour, just like any other behaviour, does not exist in a vacuum. In order to deal appropriately with crime perpetrators, one has to understand the individual in relation to him/herself, the community and the world in which we live.

Some of the key learning for me was:
• How the values, beliefs and attitudes of perpetrators influence their behaviour negatively because of their negative world view and their negative view of themselves.
• The most commonly cited macro-level factors that contribute towards crime are: population structure, rapid migration from rural to urban areas, high levels of unemployment, inadequate education, insufficient welfare services, weak areas within the criminal justice system, large scale illegal immigration, availability of firearms, porous borders which makes crime syndicates, trafficking and smuggling a viable option and inequality and poverty.
• The development of behavioural problems early in life and critical thinking errors in later life also contribute to a life of crime. The eight most common static and dynamic risk factors for youth and adult crime are: history of anti-social behaviour, anti-social personality pattern, anti-social cognition (thinking patterns), anti-social associates/friends, family and/or marital problems, school and/or work problems, leisure and/or recreation choices and substance abuse.
• Brain development – what really stood out for me is that the brain does not fully mature until between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age which means that classifying a person as an adult at age 18 is actually technically incorrect because research has shown that the brain actually only completes development (matures) by age 25 – this includes impulse control, planning, reasoning, thinking before acting, the regulation of emotion, abstract thinking, resistance to peer influence and the ability to delay gratification. Whether a person is mature enough to be classified as an adult therefore needs to be decided on an individual basis.
• Schemas (the way we view the world) – we learnt that there are 5 schemas and there are 18 early maladaptive schemas grouped within 5 domains i.e. disconnection/rejection, impaired autonomy/performance, other directedness, over-vigilance/inhibition and impaired limits.
• The link between emotion and cognition and criminals do not necessarily lack empathy towards their victims but that there is a selective application of empathy.
• There are 8 criminal thinking styles or patterns which support or reinforce four behavioural styles i.e. problem avoidance, interpersonal hostility, self-assertion deception and denial or harm (to others).
We also watched a DVD of an interview of a child abuse survivor called Beth. The interview was done when she was aged about 6 years and she vividly remembers everything that was done to her by her father when she was only 1 year old. It was really heart-wrenching to watch her and how she could recall everything without showing any emotion whatsoever.

Here is the link to the interview we watched:

Do yourself a favour and get the movie/DVD called Child of Rage and see for yourself the events that led up to this interview.

We also watched an interview of a young man accused of murder and this was also moving because of the total lack of emotion when he recalled the events leading up to the murder.

There was just so much information shared at this workshop over the two days that it will probably take a while for everything to sink into this little pea brain of mine.

I now see perpetrators of crime in a new light. Where it was easy to judge them before and write them off as the scum of the earth, I now look at them and say “why?” and “what went wrong?”

Don’t forget – you can also find me at:

Conversations with myself: When I grow up, I want to be a Community Paralegal


I’m thinking of becoming a Community Paralegal. Why, I hear you asking?

Paralegals who are less expensive and more accessible than lawyers are able to empower the poor and marginalised in their interactions with Police, Prosecutors and the Courts.

Paralegals are able to deliver a critical service, particularly in the early stages of the criminal justice process. They are able to provide primary legal aid services which no one else is providing, which, in turn, can eliminate unnecessary pre-trial detention, the speedy processing of cases, diversion of young offenders, and reduce case backlogs.

Paralegals can play a valuable role in reducing prison overcrowding by locating the family members of pre-trial detainees and facilitating bail hearings.

Using their knowledge of the law and the circumstances of their client, Paralegals can identify individuals who are eligible and suitable for release from the Police Station, and assist them accordingly. In doing so, they gather and provide information to the Police about whether those arrested fulfil legal criteria for pre-trial release.

Paralegals who work at Police Stations can assist in verifying the identities and location of relatives and others who may assist the one arrested. The regular presence of a Paralegal at a Police Station is also likely to moderate any tendency of Police Officers to mistreat those arrested or to demand a bribe. Police Stations are also the most effective points for identifying and diverting juvenile suspects who might otherwise be classified and processed as adults.

A trained Paralegal who has interviewed an unrepresented detainee before a court hearing is able to advise the person being detained about the right to apply for bail (if applicable) and to gather facts that are relevant to such an application, i.e. the names of relatives who may be able to raise bail or act as sureties. Paralegals may even speak for those arrested at pre-trial hearings or be allowed to speak for an indigent defendant on matters of bail.

Paralegals can improve the quality of self-representation among defendants, especially during the pre-trial phase of the criminal justice process. This can be done through awareness raising and education on self-representation, demystifying the court process through role playing on what to expect in court, and providing guidance on the bail process and the grounds on which judicial officers typically base their pre-trial release/detention decisions.

This could result in accused persons becoming more active players and partners in the administration of justice, resulting in more successful bail applications at court.

Where the accused has not been given or offered bail and are in pre-trial detention awaiting the next court hearing, Paralegals can assist them in preparing and lodging bail applications. Paralegals who work in prisons can either train prisoners individually or offer group workshops in preparing bail applications, court procedures in general, court etiquette and other options for getting representation by a lawyer for themselves.

In addition to this advisory service, Paralegals can also search for relatives of those detained to inform them of where the detained person is and to establish who will be able to assist the detainee in being released on bail.

As part of their prison-based work, Paralegals could also identify pre-trial detainees whose warrants of arrest have expired, who have been in pre-trial detention longer than the statutory maximum allowed, who wish to plead guilty and those who are terminally ill. The Paralegals can bring these detainees to the attention of the relevant Investigating Officers, Prosecutors and Magistrates.

Paralegals can play an increasingly important role in enhancing access to justice for accused persons and criminal suspects.

Conversations with myself: When a man loves a woman . . .

Calla Lily



In the country where I live, we have recently been shocked by the brutal rape and murder of a 17-year old young woman. What was so striking about this particular rape is the manner in which it was done. Newspapers reported that besides being gang raped, this woman had a broken bottle pushed into her vagina and left there, she was slit open with a knife from her throat all the way down to her vagina. Her internal organs were strewn around her outside her body in the sand. She had all her fingers broken and both her legs were broken. She was left to die where a security guard found her the next day. She was rushed to hospital (barely alive) transferred to two different hospitals in the process because those who turned her away just did not have the resources to deal with her kind of injuries. She finally died at the last hospital but not before she told her foster mother who violated her so brutally.

Some newspapers reported (maybe speculated?) that it was her boyfriend who she had just recently rejected. Was he a member of the gang or was he the leader of this particular group? Did he initiate and actually do her harm or did he instruct one of the other members of the gang to do it? We don’t know the full story at this stage because Police are still investigating.

In my conversation with myself I am asking the question: what could possibly have gone so wrong in the lives of these young men for them to inflict such gross brutality on a young woman – a woman they knew personally? Besides the one being her boyfriend (or ex boyfriend), the others were raised alongside her like brothers – she trusted each one of these men with her life. Why wouldn’t she? Her mother trusted them – why wouldn’t she?

Raping a woman is bad enough – if they really needed to kill her for fear of identification, why could they not just stab her or shoot her? Why disembowel her? Why push a broken bottle into her vagina, break all her fingers and both her legs?

They say a woman is like a teabag – you don’t know her strength until you put her in boiling water. I’ve broken more than one bone in my body (one at a time) and I know how painful it can be but I cannot even begin to imagine what this young girl must have endured for a whole night till the security guard found her and then while she was being transported from one hospital to another in search of some relief and assistance. According to news reports, this young lady endured all this pain and suffering until her mother found her at the hospital. After naming her rapists she told her mother she was tired and sore and she wants to sleep now. Her mother pulled the blanket over her body, she closed her eyes and died.

Would I have been able to last this long? I don’t know. I do have a high pain threshold, but high enough to endure this kind of violation? I don’t know – I really don’t know.

Coming back to my conversation with myself – I’m still asking the question, what could have gone wrong in the lives of these men to cause them to have to inflict such brutal harm to a woman? Where they abused, neglected or brutally assaulted (physically or emotionally) during their lifetimes? Was this a first offence for them or have they raped before? If they have raped before, was it as brutal? If not, why not? If yes, why? Why is it necessary to inflict this much pain and suffering on another human being? Did they leave the scene satisfied that their need was met? What was that need? How did they sleep that night? Was it a restful sleep? Did they have nightmares? Did they feel a sense of achievement?

This particular case has received a lot of media coverage – how do the perpetrators feel now that they are all over the news on TV and in the newspapers? Their names are known – it has been published. They are all in their early 20’s – I cannot believe that men so young can inflict so much harm.

The gang of 3 or 4 who raped and mutilated this woman (3 have been taken in for questioning so we don’t know if there are any still to be arrested at this stage) – are they part of a larger gang and this was part of their initiation? Was it a gang “dare”? Are they now seen as celebrities in gang-land? Are they heroes now?

The community is outraged – the whole of South Africa is outraged so the only people who would see them as heroes right now would be other gang members – though I still don’t see how that could be possible.

Was the brutality inflicted in an act of rage or severe jealousy? People with controlling behaviours/personalities would usually reason “if I can’t have you, nobody else will”. Was this the case here? Was he so deeply hurt by her rejection of him that he wanted to hurt her back because he could not MAKE her love him? Why did he find it so difficult to cope with rejection? What part did the other members of the gang play in all of this? Did they all take turns to rape her before she was so brutally disembowelled or did they just watch the boyfriend to all this to her?

The community wants to see the perpetrators punished. Everyone is calling for the death penalty to be reinstated. This will not happen. Others are calling for these men to be castrated but as we all know rape is about power and control and not about sex and castrating these men will not deal with their anger issues. It will, in fact, fuel the anger to be more brutal next time. Locking them up in a prison cell, in my mind, will not work either because, again, they will have the opportunity to only get more angry and frustrated and when they are finally released from prison, they will take that anger and frustration out on someone else – again more brutal and vicious than the last. So what is the solution? How do we stop this from happening again? How do we protect our women and children?

Mutilation is usually evidence of extreme anger, anger beyond control and gang rape is usually an expression of “punishment” – either the victim is being punished for something she did or did not do or the perpetrator is being “punished” by the gang leader for something he did or did not do.

Castration – the removal of the genitals – the penis is only one of many instruments used to perpetrate rape. If the man no longer has a penis, he will find another instrument to inflict pain, this could be a broken glass bottle, a broom stick, a tree branch etc. Removing the penis does not deal with the anger and frustration. In fact, it will only make the problem worse.

Public and politician’s outrage saying “enough is enough” will not make the problem magically disappear. Standing on a podium or marching in a group is not going to make the rapist stand back and say “ooohh, I’m sooo scared, I better not to that again”. It’s like saying to a naughty child, “if you don’t stop being naughty . . . ‘’ Unless the child faces the consequences for his/her actions, the child will continue with the deviant behaviour. So too with the rapist – until he faces the consequences for his actions, he is not going to stop and the consequences must be fitting and appropriate in proportion to the crime committed.

I really wish someone out there can enlighten me – tell me where I can look for the theory or theories that will explain and give me logical answers to my questions because right now, right this minute, I really don’t understand the reasoning behind this senseless act of pure cruelty. That one human being can be this cruel towards another – especially that the victim was a defenceless female.

The rocky road to my African Dream . . .

It’s a strange, strange world we’re living in master Jack . . . (so the song goes sung by a group called “Four Jacks and a Jill” many years ago)

As I sit in the sun on my stoep and read my newspaper(s), I’m shocked (but not surprised) by what I read . . .

Service delivery by our government:

• 520 civil servants convicted for embezzling R28million

• the number of parliamentary questions asked last year has increased by nearly 12% over 2010 – from 3,879 questions to 4,333 questions – according to our current Deputy President.

• 6 provinces running short of drugs (HIV/AIDS)

The ANC successfully organises a march in protest of a “painting” . . .

• A 17 year old mentally challenged girl was gang raped and the video went viral. NO ONE MARCHED.

• An 8 year old girl was raped by a 15 year old boy and her eyes gourged out. NO ONE MARCHED.

• Entire provinces are without school text books – it’s almost June. NO ONE MARCHED.

• A man convicted of raping, drugging and intimidating a girl has had his conviction and sentencing set aside because a magistrate had not followed proper procedure in taking the girl’s oath. NO ONE MARCHED.

. . . and still no one is marching . . .

A report compiled by the Department of Basic Education, released earlier this month called “The Annual Surveys for Ordinary Schools for 2009-2010” states that:

• In grade 3 alone, about 109 pupils fell pregnant in 2009 – as opposed to “only” 17 in the same grade in 2008. In grade 4, the number increased to 107 from 69 in 2008, and in grade 5, 297 girls fell pregnant in 2009.

• The highest concentration of pregnant pupils was in high schools, from grade 7 – 9. In 2009, a total of 45,276 girls became pregnant.

• As many as a million children grow up without a father, and many others depend on the extensive social grant network for financial support.

According to Professor Kobus Maree, a lecturer in educational psychology at the University of Pretoria, the grade 3 pregnancy rate is “appalling” and “deeply upsetting”. A large number of these children become pregnant because of rape and abuse.

For all the children who fall pregnant in grade 3, how many rapists are actually prosecuted, charged and sentenced?

Prof Maree continued to say that teachers he spoke to felt that the teaching of Life Orientation has been dumped on them without adequate training. He said that pupils in the higher grades often got pregnant to qualify for social grants. The 2,813,976 children receiving grants in 2009 increased to 3,110,688 a year later.

Although government has to take much of the blame for this, parents are also responsible for not giving children sufficient support at home.

Prof Maree also said that although the government had allocated a large chunk of its budget to education, incompetent and complacent public officials were not delivering educational infrastructure and other resources.

What has happened to my African Dream?

Is it all “pie in the sky” that will all only happen after I die?

Am I dreaming an impossible dream and fighting the unbeatable foe?