ANC’s silent approval of rape culture in South Africa

Why did chairman Desmond Tutu ‘s Truth and Reconciliation Commission stop  thousands of female exiles from testifying publicly about their rape ordeals in exile camps?

The ANC’s ‘patriarchal power’ through sexual terrorism is the underlying cause for the epidemic of sexual violence in South Africa 

By Adriana Stuijt, retired journalist. Dokkum, the Netherlands.

Expert: “Often in African Conflicts, Husbands are being Forced to Watch their Wives being Raped…’

24 September 2014. With sexual violence against women and children reaching epidemic proportions  under the ANC-regime, I want to raise — once again — the ANC’s culture of sexual-violence which was created during the terrorist movement’s ‘exile years’ before it was handed over the control of South Africa in 1994 by the FW de Klerk cabinet.

Many thousands of exiled women and men suffered horrific sexual abuse in the camps of the ANC and PAC in amongst others, Angola and Tanzania. Yet these tortured former freedom fighters have never been allowed to speak up publicly about their ordeal. 

Sexual violence continues to infect South Africa …

Tutu ‘s Truth and Reconciliation Commission refused to have these victims  testify publicly… and thus this culture of ANC leaders’ exercising their ‘patriarchal power’ through sexual violence continues to spread like a plague across all of South Africa.

The countrys official rape statistics remain the world’s highest – even though only one out of every 24 sexual abuse cases were actually reported (in Gauteng by 2004: SA parliamentary statement by MP Meshoe).


Sexual violence is clearly out of control and the SA Police Service’s attitude towards rape victims still often remains uncaring. This attitude also actively discourages victims of rape to report their plight, knowing that the many thousands of monthly perpetrators of rape will hardly ever be caught and punished.

The failure of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to lance this festering sore was  already raised ten years ago at the Peace and Justice Conference at the Peace Palace in The Hague held from March 25 to 27 2004, which workshops I attended as a journalist.

I reported on the remarkable testimony on this issue by Zambian participant Dr Chiseche Mibenge, 28, one of the many women from across the world present when the issue of the failure of the truth and reconciliation commission was discussed and evidence submitted.

One of the experts on the TRC procedures in South Africa, Andreas O’Shea, was also invited to testify, but dropped out at the last minute without any explanations.

Ms — who was completing her PhD on the subject of ‘Sexual violence during Conflicts’ at the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights at Utrecht University at that time — was very critical about this failure of the SouthAfrican Truth and Reconciliation Commission to reveal the truth. Now a Professor at Lehman University, she published a book in 2014: Sex and International Tribunals, the Erasure of Gender from the War Narrative,’ (University of Pennsylvania Press), in which she also made a comment very relevant to the situation for white South Africans today:

  • Often in African Conflicts, Husbands are being Forced to Watch their Wives being Raped…’  (below)
  • Order SexRapeAsAWeaponOfWarAgainstWomenAndMenProfChisecheMibenge

Above: order and read Prof Chiseche Mibenge’s book

Ten years earlier, as a young Utrecht University student, she had also spoken up at the two-day Peace and Justice Conference at the Peace Palace in The Hague, slamming the South African TRC’s censorship, and noting: 

  • "They did not allow ANC-women to testify at the TRC about the sexual violence although many, if not all, had suffered horrific sexual violence at the hands of the ‘freedom fighters against apartheid’ in the exile camps in Angola, Tanzania etc. These women were barred from testifying ‘for political reasons,” she said. 
    She attacked the TRC and the SA government for sweeping these horrendous traumas suffered by these camp-inmates under the carpet.

"During the TRC in South Africa, the overwhelming number of witnesses testifying had been women, yet they were censored – they failed to testify about the sexual violence they themselves had suffered in the ANC’s exile camps. We only heard their testimony about how their male relatives, male friends and male comrades had suffered at the hands of the ‘apartheid police,’"she told the Peace Palace workshop. “But nothing about the sexual violence these women had suffered in the exile camps of the ANC and the PAC.”

“The South African TRC had not served its intended function of ‘lancing and disinfecting’ the traumatic psychological wounds…. this healing process, which the TRC was designed for, still has not been allowed to take place,’ she said.

Separate hearing on sexual violence against female freedom fighters held behind closed doors:

She noted that while the South African government ‘later on’ convened a seperate hearing on the sexual violence targetting female freedom fighters in the camps of the ANC and the PAC – these women were only allowed to testify behind closed doors. "This secret testimony has never been made public,’ she said in 2004 – warning that these women’s traumas thus remain a festering, putrid sore.’

I agreed with her wholeheartedly – also speaking at this workshop, which was also addressed by Frank Kobukyeye of the Rwandan Conflct Management Group, and Mr Jacob Finer of Boston US, at that time the convener of Bosnia’s TRC. A South African expert on the TRC procedures was also invited, but begged off at the last minute.

“The putrid sore of sexual terrorism in SA ‘s patriarchal society continues to fester: Tutu’s  TRC did not serve its purpose of healing and cleansing South African society…”

As the record has shown since then, this culture of sexual and criminal violence has continued under the rule of ANC-hegemony.

I wrote ten years ago:  "This violence is threatening to plunge the country into chaos because there seems to be no way in which the South African authorities seem able to put a stop to it.  Their poor policing capabilities remain totally inadequate to cope with the ongoing wave of sexual violence targetting women and children of all races in South African society’. “

Ten years ago, the Peace and Justice Conference in The Hague heard testimony showing that the violence in the countryside had already caused a 50 percent drop in food production in South Africa by 2004.

I continued my article ten years ago: "The violence is threatening to tear South Africa apart, and the Truth Commission has not served its intended purpose of diffusing the hatred felt by black South Africans towards especially the Afrikaners,’ the workshop members were told.

"There is a vast increase in hate-speech, instigated by local ANC-level leaders, who even encourage the use of slogans such as Kill the Boer, kill the Farmer " under the Mbeki regime,” I wrote at the time.

Not publishing the women’s testimony means that the ANC “approves of sexual violence as their means of exercising patriarchal control…this is their message to SA males’ …

Ms Mibenge also agreed in a chat with me after the workshop at the Peace Palace that her research showed that the sexual violence targetting women and children in South Africa had by then reached an ‘astonishingly high’ level. She also felt ‘strongly’ that the SA government should release its secret report on the sexual violence targetting female reedom fighters in ANC and PAC camps during their fight against apartheid – pointing out that their censorship of this report indicated ‘a level of public approval’  by the ANC government of the sexual violence. 

Shocking: rape of 35,000 children and infants by 2004:


"By remaining quiet about this episode of the ANC’s turbulent history, the current government is also sending a powerful message to its males -  namely that it approves of the use of sexual violence as a tool to maintain control over the population.

Ms Mibenge: "It was truly shocking that the rapes of on average 35,000 children are now being reported in South Africa, even of very small infants."


Only one in every 24 cases of sexual assault were reported in Gauteng” MP rev Meshoe: 26 February 2013:

31 March 2010, Utrecht: PhD Defended: “Show me a Woman! Narratives of Gender and Violence in Human Rights Law and Processes of Transitional Justice,” Chisenge Mibenge. Chiseche’s research asks the legal profession to examine the gender biases in the transitional justice processes. “Some years ago I interned at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. I observed the cross examination of a female witness regarding the torture of men in her village. Not once was she asked about her own suffering during the conflict. At the close of her two day testimony, the Judge made the standard ‘thank you for your contribution to international justice’ speech. He then unexpectedly said: Madam I’ve read your pre-trial statements and I know that you were gang raped by soldiers. Did you report this crime?’ She replied that she had. He asked what had happened to these men and she replied ‘Nothing your Honour.’ 

Prof Chisenge Mibenge: “Sex is a weapon of war against women and men” . and order and read  Prof Chiseche Mibenge’s book

Sexual violence in South Africa: The rate of sexual violence in South Africa is among the highest in the world. Sexual violence is the use of force or manipulation to get someone to engage in unwanted sexual activity without his or her consent.[1] An estimated of 500,000 rape cases take place in the country, every year. 

About Adriana Stuijt
Retired South African-Dutch journalist formerly Sunday Times Johannesburg

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