How quickly we forget
Sheldon Morais asks why the nation doesn't rise up to protect its children.
Just over a month ago Eyewitness News and The Daily Sun broke a shocking story which was widely condemned in conversation, on radio, in newspapers, online and on social networking sites. The incident, which was recorded on a cellphone and went viral within days, left many, myself included, speechless, sick and extremely sad. We were mad, we pontificated, we blamed, we called for justice - and then we forgot.
Oh, you didn't forget? Well, let's test that. I'll even give you a clue. The incident I refer to is the rape of a Johannesburg girl. How old was she? How many boys were involved? Where did it happen? What was her mental capacity? Was anyone arrested? Did the matter even make it to court?
If you answered 'I actually don't know' to any of these questions, don't worry, you're not alone. I too, couldn't recall some of the finer details of the first piece of footage to leave me truly disturbed, in the publication or broadcast of a story.
For clarity, let me remind you of what was reported. A cellphone video surfaced showing a group of boys and young men taking turns to rape a teenage girl in a nondescript veld, in broad daylight. The girl was found to be 17 years old, given the crude nickname 'Jackpot', had been missing from her Soweto home for several weeks and was possibly mentally challenged (though this has not yet been officially been established). After details of the incident were revealed, the girl was found and a number of boys arrested. The case continues in court.
Even the recent Child Protection Week couldn't jog our memories of the tragic ordeal and remind us precisely why such a drive is still important, in a calendar seemingly filled with campaigns with fancy names but little substance.
No matter which side of the fence you sit regarding The Spear painting and its depiction of President Jacob Zuma, one thing that the saga showed us was that we South Africans can transform our outrage into action quickly and with effective results (well, depending on your views on the matter).
While issues of dignity and freedom of expression are fundamental to our Constitution, I can only hope the same attention and effort is given to child abuse, rape and a failing education system - a system which now sees pupils being taught under trees and teachers handing out condoms to children as young as nine in utter desperation.
The gang rape of a 17-year-old girl, which was caught on camera and spread across Johannesburg, will sink into the recesses of our minds in time, but unfortunately you won't forget. It will happen again, and again, and again...until we remember to make it stop.
Sheldon is EWN's Online News Editor. You can find him on Twitter @SheldonMorais.