It was Tuesday evening around 6pm; I left Braamfontein heading for the Bree Taxi rank to catch a taxi home. There are two routes to my home - Wilgeheuwel in Roodepoort, either via Clearwater Mall or Honeydew. If my husband doesn’t come to pick me up, I usually take a taxi to Honeydew from Braamfontein. On this fateful day I had to pass through Bree taxi rank to buy vegetables.
After buying the vegetables, I decided to check taxis to Clearwater first. On arriving I was directed by this guy (queue marshal) to go wait by the queue. Coincidentally, in the queue were my two friends who were staying at my place. They are newly-weds who had come to South Africa for their honeymoon from Zimbabwe. I went and stood with them for a while as we waited for the taxi to come. Having waited for a couple of minutes and seeing no sign of a taxi, I asked my friends how long they have been waiting for and they said 15 to 20 minutes. So I suggested that we could go try Honeydew, maybe there were taxis. When we were about to leave, the rank/queue marshal came to us and asked where we were going, to which I responded that we wanted to try Honeydew since we have been waiting for quite some time and still there was no taxi. He then started threatening to beat and kill me if we were to leave. I obviously thought he was joking… I mean honestly, who would beat someone for looking for alternative transport to get to their home?
I thought I was dreaming
I was in the middle of asking him if he had any idea when the taxi would come when I felt this strong blow on my neck. I was dumbfounded… thought I was dreaming. I just could not believe he had just punched me just like that… For what?
For a moment I thought he was mentally challenged. But I realised he is ‘normal’ and he was actually gloating. I just burst into tears holding my neck. In disbelief, anger, embarrassment and a sense of hopelessness I started walking away. He ordered me to stay and threatened to kill me if I moved a step further. In fear my friends begged me to just obey and wait for the taxi whenever time it would come.
Something in me rebelled and said I will not let this bastard get his way. I knew it could be dangerous walking away against his command but I told myself if he is going to kill me then let it be. I kept on moving despite him calling me to come back. Seeing I was adamant to leave he shouted at me saying ‘Ja, welcome to South Africa’. Finally, I had first-hand experience of the well professed gender-based violence and xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
Oh the irony...
This act scared the hell out of my friends who had come for their honeymoon. Ironically, on the previous night when we were discussing with them, the husband had suggested that they would want to come and undertake their post-grad degrees here. The wife contested, expressing her fear of staying in South Africa… fear of violence, crime and death. “It depends on were you stay… I have been here for four years but I have never experienced any violence,” were my exact words in response to her sentiments. Not knowing the very next day my ordeal was awaiting me. I got busted in front of the very people I was trying to convince South Africa is not as bad as the media portray it. Guess I was proven wrong. And they went back home with a true picture and first-hand experience of life in South Africa. Yes, violence is rife and it seems some perpetrators actually pride themselves in this.
I told a couple of friends and acquaintances, getting varied responses, the most common one being if I still want my life I should let it go. Apparently even the police cannot do anything to guys in the taxi industry. So even reporting the case will prove futile. After all it is like a drop of water in the sea. Despite encouragement from other people to go ahead and open a case, I feel confused and scared. What if no legal action is taken and the guy recognises me again at Bree? Won’t it be the end of me? I still cannot believe it; I don’t know what to do or how to react. Besides the headache, sore throat and bruises on the tongue I sustained from the attack, this whole incident has been an awakening for me. Thousands of people go through this or even worse situations every day. This is pervasive and more grievous than I thought.
- Nomfundo Dlamini* (Not her real name) works for Sonke Gender Justice Network in Johannesburg. This article first appeared on the Sonke Gender Justice Network website.