Op-Ed: South Africans Are Fine With Muting R Kelly But Not Their Own Problematic Male Artists
It's about time someone tells the damn truth about this hypocrisy.
The story of R Kelly and his decades of physical, emotional and sexual abuse of Black women has long been an open secret. But it is only following the airing of the telling docu-series Surviving R Kelly, that the wider community is finally accepting that they can no longer enable and protect this monster.
Hence, when #MuteRKelly was established, many people across the world joined together to rally against R Kelly's music being played on radio stations. South Africans were no different in this regard and such was the public push that our public broadcaster entered into serious discussions to consider removing R Kelly's music from their radio stations nationwide.
However, it is ironic that South Africans were able to rally together over the muting of an international musician and yet won't even turn the volume down when it comes to their own problematic male artists.
In 2017, TV personality Bonang Matheba released her controversial biography From A to B and people were talking more about the editing faux pas than the actual content of the book. There is a haunting passage where Bonang spoke about why she was no longer best friends with the eccentric TV personality Somizi Mhlongo. She said it was simply because he had chosen to remain friends with her ex-boyfriend who she carefully doesn't name in the book. The boyfriend in question is widely reported to be DJ Euphonik, who Bonang brought a case against in 2012 for physical assault but later dropped.
Bonang's alleged assault was again ignored and she was instead slut-shamed and ridiculed on social media. Even when she wrote it down for all to see, not a damn thing happened to DJ Euphonik. South Africans didn't call for the boycott of any of his shows, music or the fact that he's still on radio with access to numerous artists who are more than willing to collaborate with him.
Famed kwaito artist Arthur Mafokate has for a long time been embroiled in a court case where his former girlfriend CiCi Twala accused him of physically beating her and even had the pictures of her injuries to prove it in court. No-one has shunned Arthur's music. Purported feminists, the likes of Nomzamo Mbatha, even took a picture with Arthur not long ago and for the life of me I still cannot understand what it was in her, and her politics, that allowed that moment to happen. Her "I cringe with you all" comments after being asked to explain her decision to take the photo with him are vacuous if you ask me.
How many still refer to Arthur as the King of Kwaito? "We have to separate the artist from his art" you say. However, why is it that you only want to separate the artist from his art when his victims are women? Could it not be because you care very little for women and that you don't inherently see rape or abuse as actual crimes? What is it about rape that it has become so normalized and even palatable for you?
What about DJ Cleo who recently described his fellow musician and friend Brickz's rape conviction as a mere "fall"? No one is saying that DJ Cleo cannot visit his rapist friend in jail or forgive him for his "mistake" (read crime) but to speak as if firstly, rape happens by accident and secondly, his friend is some fallen hero, only serves to rehash how rape and abuse are treated with compromising tolerance in South Africa. Such is the reality that I can even call it right now and say that neither DJ Cleo nor Brickz will be (or have been) muted on the playlists of many South Africans.
If you think the buck stops there, it doesn't. Another male artist of note is Okmalumkoolkat. He was convicted of sexually assaulting another performer in Tasmania while on tour and subsequently sentenced to 6 months in prison. He only served one. Speaking about Okmalumkoolkat, writer Bakang Akoonyatse says: "He returned home to his partner and child to 'heal', a luxury I doubt his victim has or had." In fact, just a few weeks ago at Riky Rick's inaugural Cotton Fest, Okmalumkoolkat was part of the line-up of artists who were set to perform.
This lack of empathy is because many South Africans, men in particular, do not perceive the rampant rape and abuse in this country as the acts of personal terrorism that they truly are. They pretend to care for the likes and retweets but the veneer eventually comes off and we see that what they're really dying to say is this: I am not enraged or offended enough by any of this to the extent of wanting to ensure that it affects the livelihood of this person so that they may be held to account for their actions.
Many of them are not interested in muting any of these problematic if not criminal artists and that's okay. But can they at least have the courage, if not the human decency that they so obviously lack, to say it with their chest and drop the pretenses.
Due to a complaint from DJ Euphonik, this story was changed to reflect the fact that DJ Euphonik was not referred to by name in Bonang's book "From A to B" and that any suggestions that he was the perpetrator of abuse against her are allegations and unproven in court.