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On February 7, 2013, Angola awoke to the sounds of screams of pain and the sound of two women customers of a store being whipped. In just three days the 13 minute video that showed two women being brutally beaten had more than 25,000 views on Youtube, was aired on state television and shocked the Angolan community.
Accused of stealing soap and champagne bottles, the women were severely punished and sexually humiliated by several men, including the owner of the store. They later told reporters their ordeal lasted hours.
The aggressors used machetes, nightsticks and hoses to torture the women, in a scene that reminds of the days of slavery. In a country where the internet still has a limited role, in this instance it was transformed into an instrument of greater oversight and brought the country to see firsthand the meaning of “private justice”. The internet, a symbol of emancipation, only now in Angola takes its first steps as a watchdog in service of the people, as journalist Reginaldo Silva explains on Facebook:
Acho que a partir de hoje as redes sociais ganharam um outro estatuto junto de quem manda neste país, com as minhas atenções voltadas para o poder judicial…É importante que os poderes estabelecidos passem a encarar de outra forma a informação que se produz aqui…
I think from today on, social networks earned a new status for those who run this country, with my attention now turned on the judiciary… It is important that the established powers start to face the information that is produced here in a different way…
There were a number of voices raised against the video and expressing their grief and repudiation of the disseminated footage, such as the Prosecutor General Paulo Tchipilica, and the Governor of Luanda, Bento Bento. However in a statement the Radio Eclésia commentator and President of [opposition party] Bloco Democrático, Justino Pinto de Andrade, believes that it is impossible to believe these members of government:
Todos os dias há violência gratuita e bárbara contra cidadãos, como se não tivessem direitos, os mais elementares direitos. Agora, fruto da exposição a que as referidas imagens tiveram direito, ouvimos manifestações de repúdio por parte do Procurador de Justiça, Paulo Tchipilica, e até mesmo por parte do Governador de Luanda, Bento Bento. A questão que eu coloco é a seguinte: dá para acreditar na manifestar de “pesar” exibida por estes dois responsáveis, quando nunca se ouve a sua voz de protesto, quando se agridem pessoas na rua, se molestam os manifestantes de forma bárbara
Every day there is gratuitous and barbarous violence against citizens, as though they had no rights, the most fundamental rights. Now, fruit of the exposure this footage enjoyed, we hear manifestations of repudiation by the Prosecutor General, Paulo Tchipilica, and even by the Governor of Luanda, Bento Bento. The question that I pose is the following: is it possible to believe in the manifest “grief” shown by these two men in charge, when their voice of protest is never heard, when people are attacked on the street, when protesters are assailed in barbarous ways
The Group of Parliamentary women also condemned the scenes of violence against the two women. In a communiqué to Lusa news agency, MPLA MP, and former Minister of the Family and Promotion of Women, Candida Celeste Silva said that:
O Grupo das Mulheres Parlamentares felicita os cidadãos que denunciaram o crime, considerando-o um atentado aos Direitos Humanos
The Group of Parliamentary women congratulates the citizens who reported the crime, considering it an attack on Human Rights
However journalist and ex-BBC correspondent Reginaldo Silva, believes that most women should watch the footage again:
Todas as senhoras que hoje ouvi a condenarem a cena de violência contra as duas mulheres, parecem ter ignorado que a mesma foi testemunhada no local por pelo menos três mulheres conforme as imagens comprovam facilmente. É um pormenor que faz alguma diferença e que não pode ser ignorado na hora de se fazer justiça…
All the women who I heard from today condemning the scene of violence against the two women seem to have ignored that the scenes were witnessed on the spot by at least three women, as the footage itself easily proves. It is a detail that makes some difference and should not be ignored when justice is to be done…
The stolen bottle, Moet Chandon, which costs just 28€, is now associated on social networks with the scenes of aggression, as can be seen on an image shared by Master Ngola Nvunji on Facebook.
Since last year, cases of violence exposed on the internet have made Angola tremble. Earlier this year, images of a prisoner being beaten were disseminated.
The blog Círculo Angolano Intelectual (Angolan Intellectual Circuit) also cautions that this video is a portrait of Angolan society and where it is headed.
Temos que repensar o tipo de País e sociedade, que queremos deixar aos nossos filhos e as gerações vindouras, e nesse aspecto temos todos que reagir e ninguém pode ficar indiferente,porque infelizmente casos como este é o nosso dia dia… a criminalidade é fruto da pobreza , miséria ,desemprego,politicas sociais injustas, a própria polícia com baixos salários mais preocupada com a gasosa para a sua sobrevivência do que a defesa do cidadão e do bem comum.
We have to rethink the type of country and society that we want to leave for our children and future generations, and in this way we all have to react and nobody can remain indifferent, because unfortunately cases like this are everyday for us… criminality is the fruit of poverty, misery, unemployment, unjust social policies, even the police themselves with low salaries are more worried about gasosa [a way of referring to bribes] for their survival than for the defense of the citizen and the common good.
Angolan state TV reported that the Prosecutor General of the Republic and the National Police have already detained the suspects in the beating case. The Prosecutor also recognized the fundamental role of the dissemination of the video in social networks.