In the Botswana Gazette edition of Wednesday 16 – 22 January 2019, Journalist Tshepang Babusi writes “Throwing our weight behind women who have been raped is a knee-jerk reaction for most of us.” The truism in this statement echoes loud like a rainmaker’s drum in the middle of a mountainous valley. This knee-jerk support births what I term “Activists of convenience”. These are people who ride the wave of any movement either to fulfil their need for accomplishment or their greed for attention and to feel relevant. These are very dangerous and destructive characters to any movement.
In the age of social media, social movements often spread like an inferno. For many, myself included, that is the beauty of social media. It has the ability to organically mobilize people to rally behind a just cause. Equally, it has the ability to cause a just cause to be hijacked by attention seeking, self-serving activists of convenience. Social media is a gift and a curse to social activists out there. I am not here to provide a critique of social media and its impact on activism and my little take above should suffice for the time being. I pen this piece to call out these activists of convenience, to call out hypocrites.
First things first, I have no problem with those in positions of power using their power and influence to cause good to be done or justice to be done. I abhor those who do so out of convenience and most of the time to score political points. To prostitute one’s pain and suffering or someone’s selfless quest for a noble cause for political gain. That is deplorable and takes away the credence of such noble causes.
In the week gone by, a petition titled #JusticeForZinedine gained traction on social media and further heightening calls for the protection of women from rape and sexual abuse. The petition borne of Zinedine’s harrowing story of her sexual assault and eventual negligence of the police in handling her case caused an uproar. The story resonated with many on social media hence the uproar. As I pen this piece the petition has garnered more than 26 000 signatures. The petition from the look of things is a success because of the organic nature from which it was born. As voices of support echoes louder than the horror of her story opportunists lurked in the shadows like a lion stalking its prey.
As the conversation progressed on Twitter, a few notable things happened: first there was notable silence from the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, The Presidency, All Political Collectives and female leaders. Well, the silence was not for long as one Honourable MP Bogolo Kenewendo joined the conversation offering to use her power and influence to aid the rape survivor. On her official twitter page, she shared that she had been in contact with the Police Commissioner and asked her to give her her number in the DMs. Quite noble of the youthful Minister, right? I call BS on that.
Before you put me on the cross like the two thieves that accompanied Jesus in Golgotha allow me a few lines to elucidate. My view is if her attempt was noble she would have reached out to Zinedine without going into details of what she had done in public. A simple “kindly send me your contacts in my DMs” would have sufficed. Every political animal will tell you that her tweet was calculated to paint her as the messiah. While I appreciate her efforts may be helpful to Zinedine the manner in which she went about is distasteful. Opportunistic. Like a pro she got the plaudits she so much yearned for.
It is my considered view that the move by the Honourable MP was predatory at best. One would note that prior to the petition in question there was a petition doing rounds on social media calling for the removal of Ngaka Ngaka as the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs. The reason behind the petition was quite simple: the person at the helm of the Ministry was supposed to be a champion for gender issues, to be a voice against gender-based violence among others. Looking at MP Ngaka Ngaka, he lacked the moral standing to be at the helm of the Ministry with having been a perpetrator of domestic violence. Everyone is aware of the story of him assaulting his wife in full public view.
What is notable was the Ms. Kenewendo’s stark silence on her colleague’s removal from the portfolio named above. Being a champion of Women’s and Gender issues in totoas she would like to be viewed her silence was rather telling. Her silence could only spell one thing “My outrage is only as loud as the political gain it gives me”. Her voice was needed then as was now but she chose political expediency. She chose to tow the party line rather than do what was right. To date she is yet to make her views known publicly on the petition to remove Mr. Ngaka from the Gender portfolio. It is hypocritical of her.
The same can be said by the BDP Presidential hopeful Ms. Venson Moitoi. Her silence like Ms. Kenewendo on the Ngaka Ngaka petition and show of us support for Zinedine shows of their predatory nature. Their voices come at a price and that price is political currency. To go against one of the cadres in the BDP would have cost them political currency while support in the Zinedine case bore them plaudits. Human strife should never be used as political currency. I find their actions quite disingenuous to say the least.
To all those who wish to fashion themselves as activists and supporters of different human strives my message is quite simple clear: It is either in it for it or you stay out of it. There is no room for pretenders and opportunists. Activists of Convenience like Ms. Moitoi and Ms. Kenewendo should rebuked and unapologetically so. As Babusi rightly put it, activism is not a knee-jerk reaction. It is not political currency. It is about human lives.
NB: You can sign the petition to get #JusticeForZinedine by clicking on the link below: https://t.co/GD8UPhpQKe