When Masego arrived at school the next morning, Malebo was waiting for her at the gate. Malebo gave Masego a big hug and Masego, even though still confused and angry, gave herself into the embrace.
“So, Zee,” Malebo started uncomfortably. “You know that the 30 Days of Activism against gender violence starts in two days, right?” She searched Masego’s face for a reaction.
Masego nodded and told her to carry on.
“Well, there is going to be a big march in town and Kele has organised for the school to join the march. She has asked the Principal and he is supportive. Kele is organising groups of learners to paint banners.”
Finally Masego spoke, “Wait, so now I’m a victim? Why are you telling me this?”
“Zee, this will empower a lot of learners and Odwa will know he can’t just get away with what he has done,” Malebo said, like a politician campaigning for votes.
“I don’t know how I feel about working with Kele. I don’t like her,” Masego said, accusingly. And started to walk away.
“Masego, there’s more to Kele than you think. She confided something in me. She was probably going to tell you too,” Malebo said, walking faster to keep up. “It’s why she feels so strongly that we should act … for Masedi, for every woman who has been raped. I’ll tell you later. We’re going to be late for class.”
At break, Masego checked her phone. There was a message in her Facebook inbox.
Hi, I found out that you are Odwa’s new gf.
See this link. The same could happen to you.
She clicked the link and the same disturbing video began to play on her phone screen. She exited. She couldn’t bear to watch it again. She had to face the truth now. Kele had been right to organise the march. They had to do something about rape culture.
“Let’s go and find Kele,” she said to Malebo at break. “I want to show you two something.”
The girls found Kele under the big tree opposite the school hall, making banners with some Grade 8 learners who volunteered for the school newspaper. She looked up and saw Malebo and Kele, gave a few instructions to the learners and walked towards the girls.
“Masedi sent me an inbox last night,” Masego told Kele and Malebo. “She sent the video.”
“No way. Really?” said Malebo.
“I thought she might,” said Kele. “I spoke to my friend in Kimberley and she said Masedi wanted to get in touch with you, to warn you about Odwa.”
“I’m relieved that she’s genuinely trying to warn me. I thought maybe she was angry with me.”
“Yes, let’s hope she’s trying to protect you,” said Malebo.
Kele was unusually silent for a while. Then, with her head down, she said, “You know, I was in Masedi’s position once.”
“You mean?” Masego said, unable to say the word, ‘rape’.
“Luckily no-one took a video, so I didn’t have to suffer extra humiliation, like Masedi.” Her voice was beginning to choke.
“What happened to the boy?” Masego asked, taking Kele’s hand into her own.
“I was too scared to tell anyone, in case they thought I had led him on. Crazy, isn’t it? The way girls are made to blame themselves. That’s how it goes. Luckily my family moved from Kimberley and I heard later that the guy got involved with a violent gang and got killed,” Kele said, squeezing Masego’s warm hand.
“Eish, that’s tough. I’m sorry Kele,” said Masego. She took the hand of each of the other girls, to make a triangle of sisterhood.
For the first time the weight of the matter dawned on Masego and tears started to roll down her cheeks. She felt an intense gush of guilt, like she personally had violated Masedi. The butterflies came again, and she let out a wild cry, startling Kele and Malebo. The girls tightened their grip on Masego’s hands and Kele pulled her into a hug.
“Malebo told me to take it slow. She told me not to do it on Saturday,” Masego said, weeping on Kele’s shoulder.
“Hey, this is not your fault. It will never be your fault. You didn’t know; you couldn’t have known. Don’t ever blame yourself,” Kele reassured her, remembering the words from a Facebook page she followed.
“Then why do I feel so guilty Kele?” Masego asked, as she pulled herself away from the hug. Malebo handed her a tissue.
“We can go and talk to the Principal. He needs to know this about Odwa,” Kele said.
“The fewer people who know about this, the better, from my point of view,” Masego said, blowing her nose. “He didn’t rape me, but what I saw in the video… if he did rape her… then he needs to face up to what he has done.”
“We can’t keep silent Masego. I kept silent, I shouldn’t have. Let us go together I will go with you to the Principal, and make a strong case,” Kele said.
“I will come too,” Malebo said and again, the girls held hands, making their triangle of sisterhood.
* * *
Tell us: Masego was not raped by Odwa, so do you agree that she should out him as a rapist?