PREDATORY LEADERSHIP – Where do we draw the line?

By: Chulumanco-Mihlali Nkasela

It is no secret that men in politics get away with abuse very easily. Going unpunished is the highest probability and, at the very least of the odds, will there be someone coming out about the trauma inflicted on them by a person in a position of leadership and being vilified. With the amount of false rape reports being equal with any other common crime, we can no longer hide behind “he is being framed”, “opposition is planting this and that”. Could it be really possible that every man in a position of power and influence has never been a sexual predator? Could it be that every woman that has come forward is a conniving liar that is trying to ruin the future of the poor’s crème de la crème?

Where do we draw the line as a mass and a people that refers to itself as activists? Where do we draw the line when it comes to dealing with problems? Do we only problematise problems when it is the opposition that is going through a bender and we feel excited to gaslight and call them out? Wouldn’t organisational discipline include calling out your “comrade” when they are moving sideways. Wouldn’t it be of higher organisational discipline to rid your organisation of predators and abusers? Who really casts aspersions, between the predator and the one that is preyed on but decides to stand up, speak up and break the silence? Who is really tearing the organisation asunder, between the one who is preyed on and the one who reckons that their power can be used as a shield to prevent them from ever being caught and punished?

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In as much student politics somewhat becomes a breeding ground for corrupt politicians and general citizens, it has also become a breeding ground of sexual predators. The amount of sexual trauma inflicted on women by student leaders arguably surpasses all. So where do we draw the line? Where is the space for women to be safe in and around student politics? Where is the space for women to not feel the unwanted wrath of a leader high and drunk on power? Where is the space for women to feel safe to speak and not be called a liar, a witch, a sell out and a person that is being used to advance political wars? Where do we place the women and their abused bodies in the supposed lies that are meant to ruin and bring about the harrowing fall of your favourite leaders’ careers?

How is it that we require a scientific explanation to a woman breaking her silence about rape against a well known and influential person? In a world where 92 to 98% of sexual assault incidents that take place are found to be true – how does “the leadership” constantly fall on the 2 to 8% that is found to be untrue? How is it that every woman has met and knows women that are survivors of sexual assault, but men don’t know any man that is a sexual predator?

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How is it that we don’t consider ill manners and abuse towards women organisational ill-discipline? How is that the people that time and time again face the wrath and abuse are forced out of the organisation, ie. the survivors and not the predators? How do we claim to fight for a greater cause and for greater humanity when we refuse to see the humanity in women? How is that we are so hypocritical in our approach, that we don’t try nearly as much as we protect black bodies from white supremacy to protect women bodies from patriarchy. A patriarchy that translates itself into misogyny?

We don’t need a discourse to tell us that we don’t need a haven of an ideology that women will champion. We don’t need a discourse to realise that women are oppressed and we need to deal with that oppression from the roots and within immediately. And so, we need stop protecting the crème de la crème when they are wrong and need to be punished. I’m yet to see the greatest form of organisational discipline from any student political organisation and parent political organisation. Which is the suspension and expulsion of a leader because they committed extreme gross misconduct in exhibiting sexual predatory behaviour, whether it be reported to the police and litigated in a court of law or not.

We should shy away from not treating sexual predatory behaviour as other criminal behaviour. If there are rumours, as minor a they may be, about any other common crime being committed by a political leader, they are suspended from the organisation or step down from their position. Why doesn’t the same doctrine apply when sexual predatory behaviour is concerned. Is the reason due to women oppression being less of a crime to humanity that it is not dealt with in the same breath of urgency if dealt with at all?

How is advancing the struggle for the rights of black women taking away from advancing the struggle for the rights of black people? By liberating black bodies, black women are also liberated. This is not however, a complete liberation as the system of patriarchy will still persist. We cannot continue denying this, as though the liberation of black people advances black women in the same way that is advances black men. In actual fact we could be left with an even bigger catastrophe that goes the other way. In other words, instead of it being an all-rounded solution, the solution only breaks the ties of race and still reinforces and tightens the shackles of patriarchy in the black community particularly to black women and queer folks.

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African culture was contaminated by the horrible touch of colonialism, and therefore the cultural system needs a lot of deconstruction to work towards restoring the world back to what it was. Perhaps the system needs to develop society into a better world beyond what it was and could ever be imagined. It is important therefore, to deal with the oppression that we face intersectionally and with a realisation that no oppression is greater than the other when it comes to the oppression of black bodies and black female bodies.

In so doing we embrace feminism and gender equality in the same footing as any other ideology that is used as a tool liberate people. We should take feminism as advancing the struggle of black people rather than it being a divisive tool. We need to embrace the conversation about the liberation of women in the same breath that we hunger for conversations that are deadest on fighting oppression. It is about time that the black woman does not only reclaim her voice, rather it is also a time for her to be heard!

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