Mandela Rhodes Scholars
Mandela Rhodes Scholars

The peaceful village illusion

By Zimbini Ogle

Send your children to the villages, they will be taught respect and dignity. The village life will inculcate good principles and life is peaceful in the villages, we were told.

Yes Khaya Dlanga I agree with you on the violence in villages today. I remember the stories about how peaceful it was: good principles, respect, dignity and a sense of safety. There were no taverns in my village. One had to go to town to buy alcohol or buy traditional beer from the village. Only two houses in my village sold injemane and umqombothi.

There was no violence and I never witnessed any when I was growing up and my idea of poverty was formed by what I saw on TV. I think it was the images of the emaciated children in Ethiopia who appeared to have kwashiorkor.

Truth be told, there was violence. This violence was not often occurring from the hands of a stranger but from the hands of the man in your own family. It was our fathers and brothers. Husbands on wives. Brothers on sisters. But this was unspoken of. I remember our friend from school: we were in standard 5 and she said her brother had been “doing something” to her for a long time. She was raped by her older brother. Many of us knew of someone who had been sexually abused.

I remember our neighbour jumped over our wall, running away from her husband who was assaulting her and her children witnessed this. So many other wives were physically and psychologically abused by their husbands. We see the psychological scars of the abuse years later.

Our brothers behaved like our mothers’ husbands towards us. These things were not spoken of. In family meetings, these things were not spoken of. This enabled the behaviour and there were no negative consequences, it was not reported.

Young girls had to wake up at night to open the gate/door for their brothers who had gone out for the night and the put on the stove to warm food for them. Behave like the wives behaved towards husbands. This was normal.

But when I met other girls talking about their childhood I realised that something needed to change. I thought differently and did differently as a result of these “dialogues’. Many young girls/women were beaten up by their boyfriends and they called this love.

What needs to change now? Who needs to change now? Now that things are looking worse as highlighted in Dlanga’s article, could we remedy the current situation of violence, hopelessness in our villages?

What defines you as a man? Is it your dominance over women? Do you take pleasure and pride in the fact that there is someone who fears you? I want you my village brothers to take on a new reputation. Perhaps that of a gentleman. But how are you going to be a gentle-man?

Let us have a dialogue with the village men. Let’s create spaces for women to dialogue.

With the high unemployment rate we see more men in the taverns and an increase in violence. We need the chiefs to come on board and the rest of society in creating a new male identity.

Zimbini Ogle has a master’s degree in clinical psychology.

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    • bernpm

      Do a random check on your TV/DSTV programs of 5 minutes per switch.
      After an hour you will have stumbled on at least 6 out of the 12 that will show you some or other scene of violence. If not you will have come across a news bulletin with violence in it.
      Any surprises here when people learn from this and/or consider it normal?

    • Anele Siswana

      Zimbini, thank you for giving us clear narrative based on your subjective experience of living in the villages. I have also witnessed the lifestyle and how things have changed in the villages particulalry in the Transkei. It is sad to note that indeed women voices have been silenced as victims of abuse under difficult circumstances. This has made me realise that the violence happening in villages is the symptoms of moral decay in our society where we have lost meaning of being human. In response to these questions you posed ” What defines you as a man? Is it your dominance over women? Do you take pleasure and pride in the fact that there is someone who fears you? Firstly, I think what defines a man is a deep level of interrogation on one’s values, morals and practices that one incorporates as a lifestyle.Moreover, as a young Xhosa men I am always stricked by problematic practices that tend to de value women as subjects rather than human beings. What we need to critique is the social construction and socialisation of boys and men into the system of patriachy. But we need to be aware that women’s voices will always on the periphery when it comes to contesting masculinity and patriachy.


      This is real and so painful. i believe many who read this article will be enlightened and will change and become gentlemen of the 21st century. You might think that it was happening in your village only, but the reality is it happens in almost all of this African countries.

    • michael

      The root of this problem is the trauma black men suffered under apartheid.

    • Jane Metelo-Liquito

      The phenomenon of violence against women within the South African community in general is shocking. Many of us know someone, and often multiple women who have been victims of abuse.

      As Ms Ogle writes, within her village’s traditional environment there is a tacit and sad reality that this violence continues to perpetuate itself in the silent acceptance of gender roles played out.

      I agree that it takes dialogue to communicate new ways of sharing responsibility in relationships. A community should find ways to protect its people and culture, but not if the tradition is to rape, violence and abuse – with the male in the role of perpetrator and female in the role of victim.
      Thank you Ms Ogle for your article.