In a video clip that has elicited much comment on social media, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula can be seen addressing an official event in Soshanguve and discussing the problem of crime in South Africa.
He then rants about the fact that a man was recently arrested for killing “such a beautiful girl, [a] yellowbone”.
Mbalula was referring to the sensational murder of Karabo Mokoena, who went missing about two weeks ago. Her charred remains were discovered this week and Mokoena’s uncle Tshepo wrote on Facebook that her boyfriend, Sandile Mantsoe, had confessed to killing and burning her body.
Mantsoe was arrested on Thursday and appeared in court on Friday. His next court appearance is scheduled for May 24 and he requested to be held at the Norwood Police Station.
— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) May 12, 2017
There has been criticism on social media of the fact that many women are abused and murdered in South Africa, but few of their cases receive the same kind of intense coverage that Mokoena’s has, with a few commentators suggesting this may be because few of them are as “attractive” as Mokoena was.
The minister appears to have played into this narrative, implying that the lives of “beautiful” people are somehow more important. The term “yellowbone” has also been much criticised, because it implies that lighter-skinned black women are supposedly more aesthetically pleasing than darker ones.
EFF leader Julius Malema responded to the video clip of Mbalula by tweeting, “He banna,” an expression of severe disapproval.
Another user tweeted: “Mar dai man! Is it about beauty or a crime committed?”
Others were equally shocked that the minister could have been trying to crack what seemed to be an attempt at a joke about such a serious matter while the victim’s family was still in mourning.
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi wrote: “We are doomed, I tell u now! If anyone thinks there is a future leader in the ANC. Here is Mbalula making a complete fool of himself.”
Watch the video below:
— Yolisa Njamela (@yolisanjamela) May 12, 2017
Another user wrote that she was unimpressed with the ANC for giving “these stupid people platforms to speak”.
Thank you. Parents lost a child, Minister cracks a sick joke ka yellow bone and people laugh. Her parents are crying, people laugh. Wow!
— Daughter of the Soil (@Tumithenative) May 13, 2017
and the Police Minister joking about it, how did we get here?
— Thomas Netshidzati (@funanani) May 12, 2017
Would it have been more understandable to this loudmouth minister if Karabo was not as beautiful as she was and/ or darker in complexion?
— Thabo Phuti Mojela???????? (@ThaboMojela) May 12, 2017
so we are all saddened as a nation bc we just lost a "beautiful" "yellow-boned" woman? Smh pic.twitter.com/dpm4FP1Qqy
— ????Unikhoni (@Lithaes) May 12, 2017
Mbalula told journalists on the sidelines of his Soshanguve gathering that he strongly condemned Mokoena’s murder.
“Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Karabo, for the brutal murder. But that should serve as an example to all our girls. Do not subject yourself to abuse from some guy because he has some money. Whatever that he has got, you subject yourself the abuse, to a point where you can die at their hands.
“Love cannot be bought. God has given you the best talent, of beauty. If a man is abusing you, stay away. Stay away from them because you will get a better one in the future. To stay with people who abuse you, at the end of the day we end up with the brutality like that and it is very painful. To see the beauty of that woman that has passed away [Karabo], it only tarnishes the integrity of real men.”
Mbalula said South African communities must do more to protect the girl child.
“Protect our girls and protect all the women around us. Ensure that they live a free life and they don’t end up dying at the hands of people who don’t know anything about love. May her soul rest in peace,” said Mbalula.