Gender Links (Johannesburg)

South Africa - Break the Silence of Cross Border GBV

Musina — Sixteen year old Amina* never thought that she would ever be raped in her life and let alone by thirteen men. Today, she is traumatised by what she went through when she tried to cross the border from Zimbabwe into South Africa.

"You can even come without a passport. All you need is to pay two hundred and fifty rands and there are some men who will assist you to cross the border," her friends said. They told her she would be taken and assisted to get into South Africa where money is easy to make. They had told her how easy it would be for her to get a job to help maintain her poor family.

A gun shot brought her back to her senses and she started looking around. She only saw bushes around her. The women and children were being held captive by a gang of young and old men. The men wore filthy clothes. Over 25 women and crying babies were sleeping in the dust. The men were holding these people including Amina captive in a deep forest. Some of the men kept their distance and seemed to have been assigned to different posts to guard the small camp.

She wanted to escape but she had already exhausted every plan she could think of. The sight of the naked woman lying on the ground on top of some thorn bushes as punishment, brought tears to her eyes. The woman had attempted to escape earlier that morning but the men caught her and brought her back. They beat her up, stripped her naked and raped her in full view of everyone including the children.

Had that woman known that the Magumagumas would violate her in this way, she would have never tried to cross the border illegally.

The men only gave them dirty water from Limpopo River to drink as they did not have any food. Amina regreted taking her friend's advice. She felt that her friends had betrayed her.

She should have listened to her grandmother who did not want her to leave. No condition at home warranted such gruesome experiences.

A young man came running and whispered to the man-in-charge at the camp. He then stood up and started pointing at people including Amina as if selecting them. The man selected only nine people. The men pushed down or beat up women and children who stood up without being selected.

Four men ordered Amina and the other eight to follow them. They walked for about a kilometre before reaching a white pick-up truck.

Amina felt some pain in her abdomen and a scratching feeling between her legs as she walked. She slowly put her hand under her blue skirt and pulled out a yellow plastic, almost screaming from the pain.

Then she remembered how some of the men who had raped her had used the plastic as a condom. Then someone pushed her from behind and gave her a sign to move quickly. They were told to jump into the pick-up truck.

The leader then paid the driver some money and he drove off and the men from the gang remained behind watching as the car drove away.

Tears came back again as she thought of how the men searched her belongings and what seemed to be of value had been taken away. The driver of the pick up dropped them off at an old church building.

At the gate only six people entered. The rest were turned away from what I later learnt is a woman's shelter.

A woman who seemed to be the matron welcomed them and told them that they would get food to eat and a place to sleep. After two days, they had to leave.

"Is this South Africa? Is this what I left my home for?" These are some of the questions that Amina asked herself.

Amina later realised that she contracted HIV and after nine months, she gave birth to a child whose father she doesn't even know.

Amina's story is an example of the many cases which go unreported by women trying to get into South Africa for a better life. The women have any sad stories to share, but do not have anyone to tell. They think that through telling their stories, as Amina said, they will heal and move on with their lives. They want to tell other women who want to cross the border illegally that the grass is not always greener and that if they want to come to South Africa, they must get the right documentation.

This Sixteen Days of activism, society should strongly condemn these acts. A lot of these cases lead to new born babies being abandoned, because the women who give birth to babies conceived from rape tend to reject them.

These women might not have the right papers to allow them to cross the border but no one has the right to take advantage of them in such an inhumane way.

Let us break the silence!

* Not her real name.

Promise Baloyi works for Musina Community Radio. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service series for the Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Violence.

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