Maya Angelou famously declared: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” These are words that never cease to inspire Tarisai Mchuchu-MacMillan and they have formed the foundation of her life’s mission.
Mchuchu-MacMillan is the executive director of MOSAIC, a training, service and healing centre that aims to combat abuse and gender-based violence. As one of the largest service delivery organisations in South Africa, MOSAIC responds to survivors of domestic violence regardless of any obstacles.
During the lockdown, they aided more than 20 000 domestic violence survivors and assisted 8 000 people with safeguarding through access to protection orders.
“The future hope for MOSAIC is that it will not need to exist because we will have achieved our purpose,” says Mchuchu-MacMillan.
Growing up in Khayelitsha, Mchuchu-MacMillan was surrounded by gender-based violence. Although she was never a victim herself, she wondered why violence and abuse was accepted as the norm. “But I never had the voice to challenge it,” she says. “Inequalities were contributing to the nature of violence in [Khayelitsha] and I wanted to change that.”
Mchuchu-MacMillan believes that her law studies at the University of Cape Town and her participation in the student council and its societies, including the Student Health and Welfare Organisation (SHAWCO), helped her to find her voice.
She says that her proudest achievement to date is her contribution to the development of violence prevention and reduction programmes.
Mchuchu-MacMillan designed Siyakhana (Building Each Other), which formed the foundation of Young in Prison’s COPOSO (Contributing Positively to Society) model, a holistic rehabilitation and reintegration programme for young people in conflict with the law. The programme aims to create an environment that encourages participants to want to better themselves so that they do not become repeat offenders.
Mchuchu-MacMillan also developed the SAFE programme. The SAFE proposal formed the basis for the baseline research report, Protection Orders Must Protect: Exploring the Implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (116 of 1998) at Magistrates’ Courts and Police Stations in Cape Town and the Cape Winelands 2021.
This baseline research report provides evidence that MOSAIC has uncovered over more than 28 years of practice. In order for domestic and intimate partner violence to end, the effectiveness of protection orders needs to be strengthened for victims to feel safe, and is the aim of the SAFE project — currently being piloted in Mitchells Plain, Philippi and Paarl in the Western Cape.
Over the years, Mchuchu-MacMillan’s work has highlighted the misconception that people often blame single mothers for their son’s crimes against women, which is another narrative she is fighting to change. “That is just blaming women for men’s behaviour, and it needs to stop.”
The best word to describe Tarisai Mchuchu-MacMillan would have to be “resilient”. As a mother of three, she works tirelessly to see her children — and all children — grow up in a South Africa where equality and respect for all is the norm; a place where there is peace, safety and love for everyone in all communities.
“Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. I live by that. ‘You are because of others, and others are because of you.’ I hope we can get back to that — it’s what we’re fighting for.”