It is safe to say that the events of the past week, starting with the breaking news concerning Luyanda Botha’s violent murder of 19-year-old, University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana, unleashed intense emotions reverberating throughout the country like an earthquake.
The mere fact that a 19-year-old young woman could not expect to return safely from a trip to the post office at 14h00 sent most of us into a deep dark place of helplessness; only brought back by insane anger at a country whose femicide rate seems to be soaring and unrelenting. For me, the news sent me into deep silence. There was a sense of defeat for we had marched, attended summits, debated and presented strategies, yet here we are as women still dying at the hands of men. At 14h54 I received a call from a sister who has walked this activism journey with me and all I could do on that call is cry, just cry — the devastation was overwhelming. However, we both knew we couldn’t stay in that place for too long, so we quickly lifted each other up and committed to doing an online video on Facebook to discuss the news with supporters of The Wise Collective.
As a mother to two girls 23 and 12 years old, I couldn’t allow myself to even consider what this means about the safety of my own children; the hypocrisy of my words when I leave them and say “be safe” as if they have control over their safety in a country where a woman is raped every 15 minutes and killed every 3 hours. Also, the hypocrisy of making this about my “vulnerable” children, young women, nieces and younger friends when the reality of this scourge has known no age, can only be a source of the deflection from a reality of having to boldly embrace our fear while defiantly fighting to the end. The week would proceed with this dichotomy of debilitating sadness and anger occasionally interrupted by spurts of defiant energy and determination to show resilience in the face of it all.
The irony of being brave while also facing deep fear at a personal level, I avoided calling my 23-year-old on Monday despite being preoccupied with thoughts and real concerns about her emotional state, in light of the news, and her safety. My anxiety was relieved when at 22h32 we received a WhatsApp group text in our family chat where she shared a link to her location via Life360 app without being probed. We have had a small (parents and kids only) family circle on Life360 which allowed us to check-in and update each other on our location since she was a teenager. However, when she went to university she started resisting keeping this app linked to her parents and ultimately after graduation and moving out on her own she eventually disconnected the app and completely resisted what she perceived and sometimes jokingly referred to as “an electronic leash tool of helicopter parenting.”
As we piece our emotional bruises, I’m happy to be geo-connected in this pretend “safety bubble” of our family circle on Life360; however, it is not lost on me that millions of South African women can’t even exercise this and many similar options that remain out of reach due to the high cost of devices and Internet costs. Most importantly, the reality on the ground is that no amount of pepper spray, self-defense classes, electronic leashes or days of mourning and prayer can guarantee our safety. What we need now is a political will and leadership to act!
Words by Onica Nonhlanhla Makwakwa, The Wise Collective, @AfroDiva
Wise Talk is a series by Wise 4 Afrika to engage gender-based violence and femicide in the African landscape. This episode pertains to how workers in South Africa aren’t safe from gender-based violence.
The anniversary of the #TheTotalShutdown intersectional march on the 1 August 2018 is upon us and I thought I should reflect on the journey since then.
No doubt the march placed violence against women and the girl child in the centre (of South Africans’ consciousness) and emboldened more women to speak out. We managed to reiterate that issues of violence against women are not the purview of women only, that men must confront their male fragility and recognise that humanity is not male, as aptly said by Simon de Beauvoir in 1949.
The conversations around gender-based violence and femicide have raged since then and even found expression in the many manifestos of political parties contesting the 2019 general elections.
More women have unmasked themselves and bravely shown their faces as survivors of rape, sexual harassment, sexual assault and economic violence.
And for those women killed, their voices were carried and are still being carried by the women who marched and continue to march.
As we honour the anniversary of the 1st August 2018, we are fully cognisant of what we are up against – we are challenging a culture saturated by male voices and male faces. We are not invisible women – interviews by the media on the economy or politics cannot be the exclusive domain of men, we must see more women commentators and analysts on our national radio stations and televisions.
We honour the 1st August anniversary by decrying a culture of demeaning young women and dismissing their contribution in politic and the workplace. We challenge a political system that is skewed towards electing men, perpetuating systemic discrimination against women.
We are deliberate in our intentions to interrupt patriarchy, sexism toxic masculinity and misogyny. We are challenging the norms, structures, and
institutions that keep such in place.
We are now at a point where we are waiting for men to openly say how they intend to address their fragility and confront their violent streaks.
We are tired of explaining consent, we are tired of the disrespect, we are tired of explaining male privilege, we are tired of not being sure of what to wear in case we offend men and ended up being raped, we are tired of being interrupted when we speak lest we are slapped across the face for talking, we are tired of being told that we are too angry, we are tired of being made to feel guilty for being mothers to boys and being blamed for their indiscretions, we are tired of bringing up fatherless children, we are tired of deadbeat men who are not responsible enough to take care of the business of looking after their families, we are tired of men who think that rape is a game, we are tired of ignorance and code of silence on the abuse of women, we are tired of we are tired of a world that believes that we are invisible – whether in the design of furniture, urinals, public transport, tax system that drives gendered poverty and inequality.
We are not an added extra in any decision-making process. We are an integral part of the decision being made.
* Brenda Madumise-Pajibo is a director at The Wise Collective.