Protestors call for tougher measures against violent men

Women's month is over and the police deployed a water cannon and teargas to disperse the protest. Photo by Mzi Velapi

About 3,000 protestors gathered outside Parliament in Cape Town before going to the World Economic Forum meeting in the International Convention Centre, calling for action to combat men who rape and murder women.

Thousands of protestors, mainly University of Cape Town (UCT) students and high school learners, protested outside Parliament on Wednesday calling for an end to gender-based violence and rape. Clad all in black, the protest started at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), where world leaders and President Ramaphosa are gathering for the World Economic Forum on Africa. The protest was sparked by the recent case of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year UCT student who was raped and killed by a post office worker. The accused 42-year-old man appeared in court earlier this week.

Addressing the crowd outside Parliament before he got heckled, Police Minister Bheki Cele said that the police are working hard at preventing crime. He was then heckled as he tried to tell a story of his daughter who is a student at the university. The students drowned him out as they shouted that “we don’t have time for stories”. Cele was accompanied by the Speaker of Parliament, Thandi Modise.

UCT Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, said that there are immediate steps they are taking to ensure safety on campus. Female students have been complaining about safety on campus long before the accused man appeared in Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Monday. “We are currently making sure that there is always a security guard at the security cubicles which are located in different parts of campus. We will also ensure that because our female students have complained, to remove male students who have had cases of gender-based violence against them not to share the same dining halls with female students,” said Phakeng.

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Xoliswa Anthony from Khayelitsha said she attended the march to show support to women who are victims of violence. “The solution to gender-based violence and rape is to bring back the death penalty and to make sure that perpetrators do not get bail,” said the 33-year old restaurant worker who took time off from work to be part of the march.

“It has been an unsettling week and just everyone I know has come out to say enough is enough. As women we need to understand that we have so much potential power that we can use to unite and deal with the problem of gender-based violence and rape,” said Nazley Rogers, an NGO worker from Woodstock.

25-year old Siziphiwe Matwa from Khayelitsha said that every women she knows has been raped. “What all of this tells us is that it is a sin to give birth and bring a girl child to this world,” she said.

The protest went back to the CTICC to demand that President Ramaphosa address them – and to clash with the police that, bristling with weaponry, stood firm against the advancing women outside the building. On many occasions Elitsha witnessed how the police provoked the protestors. At one point the Metro police brought in a water cannon and drove towards the protestors. A police officer in plain clothes also grabbed the poster from a protestor as she waved it in front of the police. The day ended with police shooting teargas and dispersing the crowd using the water cannon. It has been reported that 9 protestors including a minor were arrested.

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The University of Cape Town will be having a memorial service for Mrwetyana on Wednesday evening.

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