The fear of becoming a statistic of the growing wave of violence against women in Gauteng was evident at a recent march in Soweto decrying the scourge.
As men and women walked in unison down Chris Hani Road in Soweto holding banners declaring #NotInMyName among other popular slogans, the individual stories of fear, violence and death emerged from the crowd.
“I am afraid to get into a taxi that only has two passengers now,” a student could be heard saying to her friend. “
Even during the day, I would rather wait for a full one or take the bus or the train.”
It was only two months ago that more than seven women came forward to report they had boarded a minibus taxi where they were held at gunpoint, gang-raped, robbed and assaulted by a group of men with the help of a woman who posed as a passenger.
Television personality Andile Gaelisiwe, who was among the various public figures who attended the march, said it was eerie to see how little had changed for the better since she became a victim of rape in a similar fashion.
“My story was so long ago but it’s still similar when I think about it compared to what’s happening now with this taxi that keeps kidnapping people.
“My first rape that I experienced was at the hands of my biological father. The second one was at the hands of a taxi driver. It feels like things haven’t moved since then. It feels like things are still the same, beyond crazy. This violence seems to have some satanic sacrificial elements and it’s despicable,” said Gaelisiwe.
She was referring to the escalating trend of young women and girls going missing, only to be found raped and murdered, their bodies disposed of in open veld, ditches and dumping sites in Johannesburg and surrounding areas.
Countrywide, 15 women and girls have been snatched, raped, killed and dumped in recent weeks.
Soweto is now teeming with hotspots where at least five women in the past few weeks have been found, having died in this manner.
Twenty-year-old Asavela Coshane said she attended the march because she felt angry and despondent. For her, she said, it was a way of life where she came from in Zola, Soweto, to walk and live in fear.
“I feel sad and it makes us all so angry because people who stay there in Zola are people who are killing us right on our doorstep. You wake up in the morning knowing there will be bodies. It’s sad and it angers us because the police are not doing anything,” she said.
Coshane said she felt that police knew about these hotspots but didn’t patrol the streets.
“We go to parties, yes, and the police know this. So why don’t they come out too because they know most of these people can be found there; that’s where they target us. If they were patrolling the streets we might not have to find dead bodies in the morning.”
Having grown up in a notoriously violent neighbourhood, Coshane said that these killings, though shocking, were not a new phenomenon.
“But it has never been this bad. There are so many ladies being attacked, there are so many being found dead and they live around us, so it makes us so afraid,” she said.
Despite the national outcry and the special task teams appointed by the police, daily reports of gruesome violence against girls and women, at the hands of men, have not slowed down.
This week, a 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and killed in a remote plantation in KZN.
In the same province, a man was killed by a gang of men while he was fighting them off as they allegedly tried to rape his girlfriend. Gaelisiwe added that life in this country was painful for women.
“As a woman in South Africa, I feel very afraid and unsafe, even doing the most normal things like driving myself somewhere, going out with friends, or going to a house party.
“I read on some girl’s Instagram page the other day that she wanted to get home before it’s dark because she didn’t want to be another statistic. That is what this thing has done to us; we are afraid to live our lives.”
Gauteng police commissioner Deliwe de Lange told media at a briefing this week that besides the task team she set up, crime intelligence would become increasingly instrumental in preventing such attacks.
“We are patrolling; I cannot tell you which are hotspots because, remember, criminals are listening – and our members are working under cover,” she said.
“Very soon we will be sharing our successes with you.”