Is the Potch Wimpy brawl really about “woman abuse”?


On Monday 7th April Ikeys beat Pukke 39-33 in the Varsity Cup in Potchefstroom. By all accounts the match ended in spectacular fashion with Ikeys scoring three tries in the last five minutes. The UCT boys had cause to celebrate; the North West University lads had cause to drown their sorrows.

I’m sure that even if you didn’t watch the game, you heard or read about it on Tuesday morning ? in the paper, on your phone, on the radio, on Twitter or Facebook. It was a great sporting story (and not just because I was an Ikey in my distant past).

 And then it all got ugly
Fast forward several hours and a bunch of (probably drunk) students, including some of the rugby players, visit the local Wimpy after 4am. A fight breaks out. The police use a spray ? teargas or pepper ? to break up the fight. Thus far I don’t think I’ve said anything contentious. And the incident, a student brawl, which is apparently not uncommon in the area, may have received a few column inches because of the way the rugby game ended, and died a quiet death. We may not even have heard about it.

But one of the participants, whose name I won’t mention because she has enjoyed way too much attention already, posted a Facebook message to Carte Blanche TV a few days later, complaining that she had “suffered from woman abuse from the winning team of the varsity cup” and added, to back up the severity of her allegation, “they wear pink pants and play with the pink ball to fight against woman abuse!”

It’s a nice tie-in, I admit. And it would be a great story, in fact, in our abuse-riddled society. If only it were true…

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story
You see, the local police and the folk at the Wimpy in Potchefstroom are obviously accustomed to unsavoury behaviour. The former were on the site in seconds and the latter caught the whole sorry incident on their CCTV footage. Which is a pity for the young lady who claims an Ikey player assaulted her while she heroically rushed to the aid of her rugby-playing friend.
If you actually watch the footage, which has been put onto YouTube by, among other, The Citizen, you’ll notice that the damsel in distress is in fact a willing participant in the brawl. She runs in from outside at about 0.34 minutes into the clip, escaping the guy who is trying to hold her back. She makes a beeline for her so-called assailant, and bashes him rabidly and rapidly on the head some twelve to fifteen times with what appears to be a shoe. She then throws a punch before her victim lashes back, giving her a black eye.

Now, I’m not really interested in whether he could or couldn’t see who he was hitting (because of the spray). Go on, watch for yourself. And then tell me what you would do if someone, anyone, was repeatedly bashing you on the head with a shoe. Me? I’d do whatever I had to do to stop them.

Now I know I’m heading into dangerous territory here. I’ve published pieces on abuse before, lamenting the fact that our women and children are not safe, even in their own homes. Appalled, I watched the Bullard/Solomon brawl from the side-lines. But I firmly believe that a woman who voluntarily enters a brawl in circumstances in which she could clearly get hurt, and then viciously attacks a man, has no right to cry foul when he lashes back at her. Even our beautiful constitution contains limitations on our fundamental human rights. And I think that late-night reveller lost the right to shout “woman abuse” when she ran of her own accord (and against the advice of a friend) into the epicentre of a barroom brawl and began attacking that man wildly without any provocation. As my eloquent friend Theo put it: Surely the vagina isn’t a magic shield?

Wouldn’t any reasonable person, acting in self-preservation, feel that the only way to stop an ongoing assault was to hit out at where they thought their assailant was? Remember, in this case, he’d just been sprayed with pepper spray or tear gas by a police woman.

My husband, a commercial litigator who handles some criminal law cases and happens to be acting for the alleged assailant, will tell you that I am the first to criticise his more aggressive clients. I don’t always approve of the matters my husband takes on because my emotional self usually assumes one accused of violence is guilty of something. I have been known to ignore the facts in a fit of righteous indignation, immediately believing the accuser and vilifying the attacker. And that would have been my reaction in this case had I not seen the footage.

Against that background, and lest I be accused of being a hypocrite, let me make my point very clearly. The woman who is complaining that she was a victim of “woman abuse” is doing a great disservice to the millions of women who are indeed victims of gender-based violence. She has abused the media and the public into feeling sorry for her and vilifying a young man. She took the initiative as aggressor in the fight between her and the Ikey player. She attacked first; she didn’t stop attacking until he did the only thing he could do: punch her. Regardless of what went on before the CCTV captured the fracas, the punch to her face was a direct result of her savage and, dare I say it, unladylike, attack on the man.

Who knows why she attacked him or why she chose to go so public about something that shows her in a bad light. She must have her reasons. The students in that Wimpy behaved like animals and should all be ashamed of themselves. They should also think twice before drinking so much they lose all sense of reason. There is no justification for violence. But we should not make the mistake of categorising that drunken fight as “woman abuse”.

Because on that same night, in Stellenbosch, a woman was carjacked and then gang-raped. Her attackers then gave back her car keys and told her to drive herself home. Her plight, a scourge on our nation, made a few small lines in Friday’s Cape Argus. The bar room brawler hogged page 1 and 2.

Please spare a thought for the true victim of “woman abuse”, whose scars will haunt her long after the irresponsible students have sobered up.


It appeared first on The Media Online on 14/04