The sight of a blind-drunk young woman being assaulted by a Big Brother housemate in what may be the most public rape ever has turned the stomachs of millions of television viewers.
The incident, broadcast live by a pay-TV conglomerate across Africa, has prompted denunciations from the continent’s great and good. Viewers have flooded newspapers and internet message boards with emails expressing undiluted outrage.
Many of the emails contain photo clips from the programme that appear to show Richard Bezuidenhout, a 24-year-old film student from Tanzania, assaulting Ofunneka Molokwu, a 29-year-old medical assistant from Nigeria.
M-Net, which airs the show to a million-plus subscribers in South Africa, disputes the audience’s version of events in the Big Brother house in Johannesburg, saying that if a “non-consensual physical relationship” began there, the producers—Endemol SA—would have intervened. “There is no indication that she was unconscious at the time,” said Joseph Hundah, an executive at M-Net.
However, viewers of the incident, which took place on Saturday afternoon after an extended drinking bout which ended in copious vomiting and apparent blackout for Molokwu, remain adamant about what they saw: Bezuidenhout lay down next to the comatose young woman and penetrated her vagina with his fingers. He carried on despite the pleas of another female housemate for him stop. Under the law in South Africa—where, on average, a woman is sexually assaulted every 40 seconds—such an act constitutes rape.
Bezuidenhout, who is married, finally desisted and went off to sit by himself while drunkenly sniffing his fingers. At this point the producers of the show did intervene, sending paramedics into the house and cutting the live feed.
Bezuindehout, defending his sexual behaviour in a show that has featured copious nudity, recently told his housemates, “Well, this is Africa.”
The contest is due to reach a climax on November 11. But the $100,000 on offer to the winner may prove chump change compared to the settlement sought by Ofunneka and her lawyers once she escapes the Big Brother bubble and views footage of her very public humiliation.
Richard Bezuidenhout—in for a lot of trouble.