With more than 30 women killed by their partners in August – when South Africa commemorates Women’s Month – thousands of people have raised their voices in the past week and a half through placard protests and marches to raise awareness around femicide.
Vigils, protests and marches to Parliament and in local communities have underlined the outpouring of anger and grief against the escalating violence levelled against women and children.
In a joint media briefing on gender-based violence and femicide on Tuesday September 3, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, said at its core, violence against women and children was the manifestation of a profound lack of respect – a failure of men to recognise the inherent equality and dignity of women, which is a fundamental human right.
Among the recent murders was that of 27-year-old Liezel Smith, mother to a five-year-old daughter and a one-month-old baby boy, who she was still breastfeeding. Ms Smith was caught in the crossfire of rival gangs in Second Avenue, Lotus River, on Sunday September 8. She died of gunshot wounds to her neck and chest.
The gunmen fled the scene and the police said no arrests had yet been made.
In the past week, the Cape and the country have been reeling in shock from the rape and murder of first year University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana, at the hands of a SA Post Office worker; the rape and murder of Jesse Hess, a first-year theology student at the University of the Western Cape, whose body was found in her Victoria Street home in Parow with that of her 85-year-old grandfather Chris, also murdered; the rape and murder of 14-year-old Janika Mallo, whose bludgeoned body was dumped in her grandmother’s yard in Heinz Park; the murder of Meghan Cremer, 30, whose body was found on a sand mine in Philippi after being missing for several days and closer to home, the murder of Nathlia Pienaar, 6, who was shot and killed on Saturday August 24 in front of her Lavender Hill home by rival gangs shooting at each other (“‘Playful’ Nathlia killed in crossfire”, Southern Mail, August 28).
Lucinda Evans, director and founder of Philisa Abafazi
Bethu, said the genocide of women and children needed to stop. “I am outraged at how the killings have escalated and there are so many who aren’t even mentioned.
“We are looking for people to help us mobilise. We need to support campaigns and we are asking businesses to come on board so we can go into areas such as informal settlement where these crimes against women are not reported.”
Non-profit organisation, Where Rainbows Meet, in Vrygrond, held a placard protest along Prince George Drive and through Vrygrond to show their condemnation of abuse against women and children. The Sozo Foundation, early childhood development centres, True North, Fit for Life, Vrygrond Young Minds, the Vrygrond Forum and the broader community joined the protest on Friday September 6, chanting “Hou jou ding in jou broek” , “No bail for rapists and murderers” and “Enough is enough.
“This (gender-based violence) comes to our door every day and something needed to give. We cannot say that women need to stop drinking, or that it is somehow the woman’s fault. It is never right to beat, molest or strike a woman” said Mymoena Scholtz, founder of Where Rainbows Meet.
She said the narrative should change. “The violence has escalated so much and we do not know why but we do know that we need to do something about it. We cannot stand by idly and let this happen. We need to stand up as communities, as organisations, and individuals. We cannot work in silos anymore – we cannot be silent anymore. It’s time for politicians to put measures in place that actually work for women and not perpetrators,” Ms Scholtz said.
“The onus is also on government. We have had enough – men must realise if they hurt women and children government must step in to bring these perpetrators to book. It cannot be that if you report a domestic violence case it takes police four hours and longer to come out .
“Men also need to take responsibility; they need to go for development training to deal with their anger or issues and to empower themselves and not take their frustrations out on vulnerable women. I encourage women to speak out – do not suffer in silence because the cycle will continue and become worse.”
Women who are in abusive relationships can call the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre on 0800 428 428. You can also call Lucinda Evnas on 073 424 4665. The Stop Gender Violence helpline is 0800 150 150 or SMS to *120*7867# from any cellphone. Child Line’s number is 0800 055 555 and the National Council for Child Welfare can be contacted on 011 339 5741.