We all know a Sharon: Assaulted or killed by a man she knew well

Saturday November 19 2022
Gender-based violence

Like Witchers, it is a feminist’s job to hunt monsters with a sword of righteousness. It is a matter of life and death. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK


I couldn’t begin to describe how exhausting feminist work can get. Like most revolutionary causes, it will repeatedly test your resolve. My frank advice to people is: don’t. Don’t get into this unless you consider fighting the patriarchy a matter of life and death.

Put that way, it sounds dramatic doesn’t it? I received news this week of further investigations into my classmate’s murder.

In February, Sharon was found dead “face down on the floor with blood oozing from the body” with contusions on the back of her skull and bruises on her face. Her boyfriend Zwelibanzi Simelane, who is the prime suspect of the murder, said this in response to his charges: “I deny any such wrongdoing and I am also surprised. I have full confidence that I will be acquitted when the matter is tried.”

You do not know Sharon from Eswatini, whose mother was the receptionist at school for many years, who is mourned by a network of friends across Africa and beyond, whose smile was glorious.

Domestic violence

But you do know someone battered, someone sexually assaulted, someone perhaps even gone by way of domestic violence. And you know men who are perpetrators. You might be a perpetrator.


You know me. I don’t think most of us can state when we figured out that being a girl or a woman was a dangerous proposition. I suspected it growing up by the ways in which my body was policed and my behaviour moulded to keep me “safe” from men without those words being used.

But I knew for sure when I watched my eldest cousin cry bitter tears at her wedding when her family was denied entry to the evening reception — a custom that nobody but the most brutish of brutes would observe even in the 1990s.

Feminists are born, perhaps, but they are certainly made too, and sharpened over time. As you grow you realise that your gender makes death an intimate thing. If not childbirth, then a man is likely to get you.

This isn’t a mere exercise in likelihoods: It is life. It is the worry over what to wear depending on destination and occasion, the lowering of the tone to appease someone who might hurt you at home, the careful timing and plotting of your outdoor activities so as to deter predators even if the male gaze is inescapable.

It is a weight carried around in a world that tells us women should be light and graceful. It is the memory of every battered woman.

Monsters are only supposed to exist in fairy tales, but they walk among us. Ye, it is exhausting to be a feminist and it tests my resolve. But every time someone tries to insult me by claiming I am angry, under-sexed or whatever slur they can conjure up I smile inside and take note.

Like Witchers, it is a feminist’s job to hunt monsters with a sword of righteousness. It is a matter of life and death.

For Sharon.