A night vigil was held on Tuesday evening at Wits University for murdered UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana, where one woman, in light of the hashtag #AmINext, was defiant.
“We can no longer be subjected to gender-based violence, none of us should be next,” she protested.
Mrwetyana was raped and killed, allegedly by a post office employee, in Cape Town more than a week ago.
She went missing almost two weeks ago, sparking a desperate search for her.
She was allegedly bludgeoned to death with a scale inside the Clareinch Post Office by a 42-year-old man who worked there. He appeared in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Monday, where he was charged with murder, rape, and defeating the ends of justice.
Wits SRC president Sisanda Mbolekwa had words of encouragement for women.
“Love yourself enough to speak out… you did nothing wrong,” she said.
While women could use hashtags and marches to raise awareness, she said real change started in homes and communities.
Mbolekwa added that South African “justice is a mess” and that the government was failing women.
“We are not safe in South Africa.”
Speaking at the event inside a candle-lit ring of people that shone out through the darkness, women took turns to voice their fears and condolences for Mrwetyana.
University is a ‘shortcut to death’
Oamogetswe Chikwado, leader of the high school division of the Black Womxn Caucus, described going to university as a “shortcut to death”, saying she was frightened.
“If no one else in the world will stand for you, we will stand for you,” Chikwado told her fellows.
“Women are disappearing… it’s a norm,” she added, before the crowd responded with chants of: “We will not be next.”
“We cannot allow it to be a norm,” Chikwado continued.
She spoke about Mrwetyana as a woman who was full of life, engaging and an activist amongst her peers and in her church.
The event, held outside the Wits Great Hall, was attended by hundreds of people – women and men – who wanted to remember Mrwetyana and speak about their own experiences.
Media reports of missing women and children have littered South African news websites, newspapers, television stations and radio broadcasts in recent weeks, once again highlighting the dangers women and children face.
A moment of silence was held for Mrwetyana, during which only the sniffing of grief-stricken participants could be heard.
‘Men should be the ones who take precautions’
The silence was broken by a heartbreaking song, before members of the Black Womxn’s Caucus and university representatives took to the stand.
They spoke of the fear all women in South Africa feel when going about their daily lives – catching a taxi, going out with friends – and called for mobilisation to end the scourge of gender-based violence.
They also called on men to do better and to say: “This stops with me.”
One survivor also took the stand to talk about her experience. A survivor of two attempted rapes – by a neighbour and a cousin – she said she would not be silent and called on other women to speak up, although it might be hard.
Mbolekwa added that women were exhausted in South Africa, saying men should be the “ones who take precautions”, instead of women.