Letter to South African Minister: Follow Up Words with Action

You are one of the most powerful men in South Africa.

You have a staff in the dozens and command a ministry which oversees tens of thousands of people. You are “very deeply concerned” by phenomenon of ‘corrective rape‘, pill the increasingly common crime in which men rape lesbian women to ‘turn’ them straight or ‘cure’ them of their sexual orientation. You see the crime as a violation of human rights and of the “human dignity of women.” 135,000 people from 163 countries have called on you to meet with activists fighting ‘corrective rape‘, and those leading the campaign have offered to work with you, sending you their personal cellphone numbers.

What’s your next move?

No brainer, right? It’s a politician’s match made in heaven: you’re under international pressure to do something about an issue you are “very deeply concerned” about. As such, you will simply instruct one of your dozens of staff members to call these activists, set up a meeting and see how you can work together, right?

Wrong.

South Africa’s Minister of Justice Jeffrey Thamsanqa Radebe seems to have found a way to make the obvious much more complicated, and to date has not responded to the calls of well over 135,000 people from 163 countries calling on him to work with the activists of Luleki Sizwe, a tiny charity that rescues, supports, feeds and nurses to health survivors of ‘corrective rape‘ in 10 Cape Town townships. In consultation with Luleki Sizwe, we decided yesterday that the best move at this point would be to show good faith, give the Minister the benefit of the doubt, and for me to follow up with Minister Radebe as a Change.org editor. Less than an hour ago we sent him the following: ———- From: Benjamin Joffe-Walt (Editor, Change.org) To: Jeffrey Thamsanqa Radebe (Minister of Justice, South Africa) Date: Tue, Jan 18, 2011 at 2:21 PM Dear Minister Radebe, Tlali Tlali and the entire staff: I write to follow up on a meeting between Minister Radebe and Luleki Sizwe activists. In an interview on SABC2’s “Morning Live”, Minister Radebe:

  • States that he is “Very deeply concerned” about corrective rape, and sees it as a violation of human rights and of the “human dignity of women”
  • States that he is “Definitely” willing to meet with corrective rape activists, and claims his office is “Interacting on this process” with ‘corrective rape’ activists
  • States that “There is a process in hand now in order to deal with this particular issue”, and that he is prepared to contact the South African Law Reform Commission “in order to look at this issue much further.”

These statements are now a matter of public record: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkx-PYqHM0U As such, we hereby request that the Minister follow up his words with action, first and foremost by setting up a meeting with Luleki Sizwe, so that they can present their grievances and a list of solutions that would help to put an end to this heinous crime of  “corrective-rape”. This issue is not going to disappear. As you are well aware, more than 135,000 people from 163 countries have contacted your office demanding action on this issue, and called on the minister to meet with Luleki Sizwe activists. Since Luleki Sizwe started their action on Change.org on November 27, more than 2,500 people a day have joined, and on average every hour of the day more than 100 people petition the minister. When your office did not respond in any way, we turned to the South African media, getting coverage for Luleki Sizwe’s call and the minister’s inaction in almost every South African media outlet, from SABC to commercial radio to CityPress, The Sowetan, the Cape Argus, Business Day, some overseas media (ex. Huffington Post) and more. As a result, millions of South Africans and tens of millions of people around the world have seen, heard or read that you and your staff have been wholly unresponsive. As an international organization with allies around the world, we are more than willing to spread that message to millions more. We can turn to international media, we can run call-in campaigns, we can run advertisements calling on the minister to act, we can call on foreign embassies to weigh in, we can turn to a number of UN committees, and we can refer the matter to much larger international organizing groups with millions of members. There is another, much simpler path we can both take: call Luleki Sizwe back. Try to work with them in good faith. Try to work together to find solutions. I think the minister will be surprised how pleasant and helpful we can be when we are all working together towards the same goal. As a measure of good faith while we await your reply, I have temporarily halted emails going to your office through the end of the week. I trust that’s enough time. I can be reached in South Africa at XXXXXXXX and Ndumie Funda can be reached on XXXXXXXX. All the best and looking forward to hearing from you, Benjamin Joffe-Walt Editor, Change.org Winning this and similar campaigns depends on our ability to quickly call on thousands of supportive folks like you. After signing the petition below, please click here to help us win! Photo credit: Tim Morgan