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Ed Herbst: Vytjie’s Zuma revelations highlight ANC’s history of sexual abuse

JOHANNESBURG — ANC member Vytjie Mentor this week released a self-published book called ‘No Holy Cows’ in which she details disturbing allegations of sexual harassment against President Jacob Zuma. You can read the article by clicking here. But as veteran journalist, Ed Herbst, highlights in this below piece, there is a history of sexual abuse and predatory in the ANC that dates back to its struggle days, particularly at Quatro in Angola. There have been further signs today that the ANC continues to adopt a dismissive attitude towards women as the party recently included men to oversee its women league discussions at its recent policy conference. Then you also have the recent death of journalist Suna Venter, a woman who was hounded and intimidated seemingly by Hlaudi sympathisers until she died, literally, of a broken heart syndrome. To this day, the ANC has not issued a strong statement denouncing the situation around her death. Added to this, the Guptas (who are very clearly long time ANC friends) have also been revealed as sex pests. – Gareth van Zyl 

By Ed Herbst*

I was part of a group which exposed Imbokodo’s sexual harassment of young girls fresh from SA. It was tradition in the ANC, especially in Imbokodo, to sexually abuse young girls and those who were desperately in need of scholarships. When they refused sexual intercourse with Imbokodo they were immediately detained and labelled agents of the SA government.

Olefile Samuel Mngqibisa quoted in Searchlight South Africa, VOL 3, NO 3, October 1993

Nthabiseng’s father, part of the ANC’s security establishment, was nearby. He had witnessed her talking to “the old man”. He told Vytjie Mentor about the experience of young male combatants of the ANC in exile. Basically Zuma was notorious for sending the combatants somewhere on duties elsewhere while he preyed on the women. “He (Nthabiseng’s father) vowed that he was not going to allow the man in the … Camry… to repeat what used to happen in exile.”

Donwald Pressly Biznews 12/72017

When I read Donwald Pressly’s interview with Vytjie Mentor and her subsequent remarks at the Cape Town Press Club during the launch of her new, self-published book No Holy Cows, two things came to mind.

Veteran journalist Ed Herbst

The first was the immensely courageous evidence of Olefile Samuel Mngqibisa before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the evidence he supplied to the editors of Searchlight South Africa and the second was the routine sexual predation on female employees by the Guptas which was alleged in the leaked Oakbay emails.

Mngqibisa, whose personal experience of the routine sexual harassment of vulnerable women by camp commanders – a seemingly accepted norm when the ANC was in exile – corroborates Vytjie Mentor’s account, now lives in the Eastern Cape and it would be advantageous if his views on Mentor’s allegations could be sought and broadcast on Carte Blanche or on eNCA’s The Justice Factor.

Patriarchal attitude

In a previous article on this website I highlighted the pervasive patriarchal attitude towards women within the African National Congress, but this needs to be seen within a broader context.

The glorious National Democratic Revolution is predicated on the assumption of the African National Congress having the sort of untrammelled power which its revolutionary heroes held in Stalin’s Russia, Castro’s Cuba, Gadaffi’s Libya and Hussain’s Iraq.

This, in turn, is predicated upon the ANC’s definition of ‘transformation’ which was articulated by Joel Netshitenzhe, writing in the ANC publication Umrabulo in 1997, as ‘extending the power of the ‘National Liberation Movement’ over all levers of power: the army, the police, the bureaucracy, intelligence structures, the judiciary, parastatal, and agencies such as regulatory bodies, the public broadcaster, the central bank and so on.’

Now the last time the ANC held that sort of power was when it was in exile and exercising such power in camps like Quatro (also known as Quadro) where the notorious Mbokodo was in control, with Jacob Zuma playing a singular role during this period.

Vytjie Mentor with her new tell-all book.
Vytjie Mentor with her new tell-all book.

The nadir in the ANC’s dark history was reached after some MK cadres mutinied against the harsh conditions in which they were forced to live while in exile and were then arrested and transported first to the Pango camp near Luanda and then to Quatro where some were murdered and others succumbed to the relentless torture of their brutally sadistic prison guards.

Inside Quatro

Herewith a few extracts from Paul Trewhela’s book Inside Quatro:

Quadro was best described in a terse statement by Zaba Maledza when he said: ‘When you get here, forget about human rights’. This was a statement from a man who had lived in Quadro during one of the worst periods in its history, 1980-1982.

The mutineers in prison in Luanda were thrown into dark, damp cells with very minimal ventilation. The cells had cement slab beds without any blankets, and the toilets in the cells were blocked with shit spilling out. Starvation and lack of water were so acute that prisoners were collapsing and dying of hunger and thirst, the only ones surviving being those who were allowed visits from their families and relatives, who even brought them water from their homes.

The mutineers were kept naked with ropes tied on them for three weeks in the prison at Pango, and any security officer or guards could satisfy their sadistic lusts on the prisoners.

The prison became more often than not filled with screams from the interrogation rooms as the security personnel began beating up mutineers, hitting them with fists and whipping them with electric cables underneath their feet to avoid traces. Kate Mhlongo, a woman who was a member of the Committee of Ten,(the elected leaders of the group who had showed their dissent and rebelled against their inhumane treatment) had to be hospitalised in prison wards for injuries sustained under interrogation, followed by Grace Mofokeng, who was also subject to beatings.

Prisoners in Quatro behaved like frightened zombies who would nervously jump in panic just at the sight of the commanders, let alone at a rebuke or a beating. In the process of these beatings during labour time, prisoners who could not cope with the work were sometimes beaten to death. Such was the death of one prisoner who died from blows to the back of his head from Leonard Mawenie, one of the prison guards. Two others were unable to carry some heavy planks from a place far away from the camp after the truck that had been carrying them broke down. Upon arrival in the camp they were summoned from their cell under instructions from Dan Mashigo who was the camp’s chief of staff, and were taken for a flogging at a spot near the camp. One never came back to the cell, and the other one died a short while after returning to his cell.

The most feared duty in Quadro was the pushing of a huge water tank, normally drawn by heavy military trucks, by the prisoners themselves for a distance of about three or four kilometres from the water reservoir to the camp. Like cattle they would struggle with the tank and the ‘commanders’ would be around whipping prisoners like slaves whenever they felt like it or when the pace was too slow.

No sanction

The context needs to be understood here:

  • The people who were thus murdered and tortured had, at significant risk, fled South Africa in the hope that they could make a positive contribution to bringing about universal suffrage in the land of their birth.
  • At the time of their murder or their torture they were in the ‘care’ of the African National Congress, the party of ubuntu, the party with a ‘good story to tell.’
  • None of the murderers and torturers at Quatro have ever faced any form of sanction.

Under such circumstances is it any way surprising that women there were regarded as chattels, that women there were treated like chattels?

In closing: It is now a year and a month since the police in Kimberley re-opened  a case of sexual assault against, Marius Fransman, a fervent admirer and great supporter of President Jacob Zuma. 

File Photo: President Jacob Zuma accompanied by Jeff Radebe and Marius Fransman at the Human Rights Day commemoration in Mbekweni, Paarl in the Western Cape.

In the light of the allegations against President Jacob Zuma made by Vytjie Mentor at the Cape Town Press Club luncheon and the testimony in the hacked Oakbay emails of women formerly employed by the Gupta brothers, we need to be told by the African National Congress why nothing further has been heard from the police or Shaun Abrahams about the investigation into the charges laid against Marius Fransman by Louisa Wynand. It is clear that there is no appetite or inclination within the ANC to see justice prevail in this instance.

With an ANC elective conference coming up it is imperative – with the right of women to the sanctity of their bodies as context – to acknowledge two facts:

  • The woman that the ANC is proposing be elected as president or deputy president used her power and influence, as Minister of Foreign Affairs a decade ago  to protect a serial sexual predator, Norman Mashabane, our ambassador in Indonesia – read Rhoda Kadalie’s account in my previous article and this article by SAPA carried in the Mail & Guardian  without rebuttal or denial by the ANC.
  • There has been no response, let alone condemnation from Luthuli House or the ANC’s alliance partners about the alleged routine sexual harassment of female employees by the Gupta brothers.

What should we glean from this?

  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.
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