‘SA not outraged enough about gender violence’ - Machel

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Mrs Graca Machel at the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust Lecture
Mrs Graca Machel at the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust Lecture

Humanitarian and activist Graça Machel lashed out at the lack of collective outrage by South Africans about the rapidly escalating brutalisation of women and children by men. She appealed to social science faculties within higher education institutions to assist the country in re-building a values-based society.

“For at least three generations, South Africa has harboured unstructured families that lack the necessary building blocks; love, care, values and principles. The country is in crises, a state of social decay. Women, the elderly and children are violently under attack. The rapid movements from rural to urban areas necessitated by oppression have broken the traditional village values that most of us were privileged to have. The family structure and its values are in tatters,” she lamented.

Machel was giving a keynote address at the third annual Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust Lecture, titled: ‘Values Based Leadership’, hosted by the Rhodes Business School at Rhodes University.

She presented bleak statistics that show that one in three young people has experienced some form of abuse, that the child murder rate in SA is more than double the global average, 40% of men assault their partners daily and, most shockingly, a woman dies at the hands of her partner every eight hours.

“We hear all of this in the media and we carry on with our lives as if it has nothing to do with us. A country of 56 million people who are not outraged enough, men are not outraged and women’s organisations are equally not outraged. People are overwhelmed and have developed a high level of tolerance. This system needs a reboot and I think higher education holds the last hope for the nation,” she encouraged.

Machel, Chancellor for the University of Cape Town, singled out the youth as the only social group that is protesting against this social injustice. She encouraged for this group, especially those that are in tertiary institutions, to be equipped with the necessary basic values that they can instil back into society.

“Their parents have been brought up in unstructured families and they become parents and pass on a system of disconnect and emotionally scarred people. We have normalised violence and corruption. Generation after generation, there is no sense of boundaries,” she said.

She encouraged that if the most important units to develop a value-based society - the family, school, and religion, can work together, we can salvage some structure that we can continuously build on.

“Tertiary institutions need to help us change our behavior, not in abstract, but to touch on our souls and heal us. The young people you have are more aware of the absence of values and dignity than most elders are. Start here and help them re-build the family unit in order to shape a desirable society,” she concluded.

She called on society to remember the African way; the collective, respect for the elderly, respect for the family structure, and most importantly; for each person to respect the mere existence of another life.

Rhodes Business School Director, Professor Owen Skae, described Machel as a global citizen with a message that transcends many dimensions.  “Although her lecture was about values-based leadership, she placed it fair and square on a values-based society. The statistics she provided around the levels of gender and child violence shocked us all to the core,” he said.

He commended her for not pretending to have solutions but rather challenging the public to demonstrate outrage, make the change and most particularly as institutions of higher learning, provide the architectural structure that will contribute to the address of these societal issues.

“Her message was clear, that if we wait for leadership, we will be disappointed. We should rather start with ourselves, and our families, and from there we can make the change,” he said.  

The Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust Annual Lecture seeks to address socio-economic challenges such as poverty, inequality, and unemployment in Southern Africa, through the provision of educational opportunities, skills and entrepreneurial development, and the promotion of health awareness.

Mrs Lungelwa Makgoba attended the Lecture on behalf of her husband who watched the proceedings via live streaming. Former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe presented the 2016 Thabo Makgoba Lecture.