Women of Reverence welcomes Bheki Zulu as a guest blogger for Gender Based Violence.
Bheki was born at Eshowe, (Zululand) KwaZulu Natal, in January 13, 1958. I grew up in a family of five. My dad was royalty, the late Prince George Mseki Nimrod and my mom, Edith Jabuliswe (umaNxumalo), and my older brother, Thulani Vincent. My younger brother, Thulasizwe Michael is still alive and his home is at Witbank.
My formal education started at Umlalazi Lower Primary School and proceeded to Nkume Primary School and later to Ubambiswano High School. End of 1975 I left Eshowe for Durban. In 1976, I was admitted to do a four year bible training at Global School of Theolgy, former SAST & African Bible College (ABC). After a two year practical training as an assistant pastor I was ordained as an International Assemblies of God (IAG) pastor. While serving as an assistant pastor I was invited to do ministry with Youth For Christ (YFC) and served both youth and adult for seven years until 1989.
When my time was up, I was invited to join a Durban based International Bible College staff as a lecturer for three years during which I obtained my Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology through Global University. It was followed by honours with UNISA. After three years, I resigned and joined NCF Church (now One Life Church). I served on a pastoral staff in 1993 and got ordained to eldership in 2002. I studied a master’s program in 2010 - 2013, where I obtained Masters in Vocational Practice through an Australian institution. I got married in 1984 to a lovely daughter of God Phindiwe Phyllis (MaMbhele). God has blessed with Three beautiful girls and an energetic boy. Nosihe 1987, Nandi 1990, Siphosayo 1991 and Joshua 2005. I have also been involved in Radio at Ukhozi FM since 1985 as a preacher. I got saved in 1974 at a small town of Eshowe in Zulululand.
Gender-Based Violence is said to be violence directed at the individual, based on one’s biological sex or gender identity. It includes physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse, as well as threats and economic or educational bias. Both women and men experience gender-based violence but the majority of casualties are women and girls.
Addressing gender-based violence is an action that should be undertaken in a responsible and respectful manner, that both affirms the survivors and condemns the actions of the perpetrators. We cannot remain silent any longer. I have become well-aware that Bible scriptures were all written within a particular context to address certain situations, to understand both the negatives and positives. Therefore, we have a lot to learn in interpreting the text for its historical, literary, and reader value. Teachers of the Bible can guide us in further understanding both the negatives and positives of certain Bible stories and the hope and love of God in each. There are also numerous scriptures in the Bible that show us gender-based violence, right from kings to princes and from prominent leaders to ordinary men.
Growing up with a violent and abusive dad was a huge challenge, especially for me, and it had a significantly negative impact on my younger brother. My dad abused my mother in many ways. He used to beat her any time and leave her bleeding; I don't know for how long. He also had the habit to leave home for days, weeks and months, without notice, and expected to be treated as a husband and a father whenever he came back. Nobody knew where he was or what he was doing. He was accountable to nobody. In fact, we used to welcome his absence – it was so peaceful when he was gone.
At times, my mum would end up in hospital and my dad didn't care one bit (even though he looked worried at times). When she came back from hospital, she was expected to cook and be a loving mother and a good wife to him. He ruled the house with an iron fist, and any perceived slight or misdemeanor – something as minor as relaxing after hard work or listening to the radio – would make him explode. Even when he seemed happy, we knew his mood could flip at any time. Our family was isolated. Our friends weren’t allowed around us and my dad literally would chase them out. We were never invited anywhere because he did not appreciate invitations. He regarded every person as a threat to him and saw everybody as a witch.
I knew it wasn't right for my dad to abuse my mum, but we were all powerless and never knew what prompted him to be so cruel. I vowed never to emulate my dad’s actions. What surprised me was that my mother never retaliated or said anything evil about him. She was such an honorable and godly woman, even though she was not then saved. I made it my mission that when I got married, I would do the opposite. Thank God He saved me!
In 2 Samuel Chapters 11&12, we read of David sending messengers to get a woman by the name of Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. He imposed himself on her as a king. We don't know if she had mounted any resistance to David’s advances. But then, she had very little power as a woman to fend off the advances of a king. The thing David did was evil in the sight of the Lord. The king may have been powerful and acting with impunity but he was not above the law. The murder of women (femicide) in South Africa has become a national crisis. According to a Government report, a woman is murdered every three hours in South Africa, and many are assaulted and raped before their deaths. Women are brutally victimized each day. Nearly 3000 women were murdered between April 2018 and March 2019. This is a staggering figure and it translates to seven per day.
The murder rate of men is also high, at 50 per day. But some contributory factors are of their own doing as some of them commit suicide after the killing of their spouses. However, many of the female victims are brutally assaulted and raped before being murdered. In many cases, their bodies are disposed of in the bush or shallow graves, or burnt beyond recognition. This must come to an end: MEN MUST SPEAK UP AND REPORT ANY WOMAN OR CHILD ABUSE. I would like to advise men that instead of taking a life or raping a woman, they must seek help. What do men gain by raping and killing? If your spouse is no longer interested in your relationship and tells you, “It's over”, if you ever loved her, respect her decision and walk away in peace and with dignity intact. You will gain so much respect from her and others.
May I suggest some solutions to GBV:
1. Let's talk about scriptures that relate to gender-based violence in the Bible.
The rape of Dinah in Genesis 34, the only daughter of Jacob, was not an accident. It was well planned and orchestrated by the prince. The sad thing about the story of Dinah is that we never get to hear her side of the story in the matter. She couldn't do anything about what was done to her. We don't know her emotions because her story is not told. Her sexual identity was defined by choices of men. After the rape, she became the object of actions rather than the subject. She remained childless all her life because women in her situation, who had been raped, did not get married unless the perpetrator married her. In her case, even though the perpetrator was willing to make amends by marrying her, they killed him. What about Lot offering his daughters to be raped in Genesis 19:1-11? In addition, look at a woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. She would have been stoned if Jesus had not intervened. Where were the men?
2. Let's raise awareness of the dangers of harmful traditions.
I want to leave it to each tribe to examine what cultural practice is detrimental to women. It is very fascinating that in research that was done by Mdumiseni Langalihle Langa for his degree of Master of Arts at the at KNU Durban, it was discovered that 75% of males support polygamy, against 12% percent of females who support polygamy. That means that 25% of males don't support it, whereas 80% of females do not support it. Could this be another oppressive system? This is another example of inequalities that need to be tackled by both men and women.
3. Let us speak against domestic violence.
If a woman is beaten at home, report it to the police. Let us engage community leaders to be actively involved in the fight against the scourge of violence against women and children.
4. Let us engage boys and young men from childhood to become agents of change.
We teach boys to treat their sisters and mothers with utmost respect and dignity because that's where it starts. Men need to set examples by the way they treat their wives. It's time fathers learn to do chores that are regarded as belonging to women, like cleaning the house, washing dishes and pots, making their own beds and learning to cook. Boys learn by example, as children do.
I want to close with this: denying people the freedom to choose their path in life because of their gender prevents them from fulfilling their full potential. This has to be a crime against humanity.