Organisers of the #TotalShutdown march are not impressed with the government’s #100MenMarch that took place on Tuesday.
The women behind the all-women march, who have for months been making plans for a national shutdown on August 1, are heavily critical of the men’s march and told City Press what they aimed to achieve with their nationwide protest.
“It’s funny this whole 100 man march thing. You’re marching against yourselves. You are the perpetrators. The reason why we are having this march on the first of August is because of you,” said Lesley Ncube, member of the media and communication team of #TheTotalShutdown.
These are some of the stories shared by different individuals anonymously on The Total Shutdown: Intersectional Women’s March Against Gender Based Violence public Facebook page:
“I am marching because I have developed amnesia that has been worrying me for a long time. I do not seem to remember events from before the age of about 24 (I am 29). I always used to joke that something traumatic probably happened and as a coping mechanism I hid it very deep somewhere, not knowing that I shafted it along with other memories. I realised recently that it is the rape that I endured. A rape that happened at the hands of my then boyfriend’s friend.”
“I was locked away, expected to wear long sleeves and pants at all times, in the middle of summer, in case a man would come around and [see] me – being raped in the house, beaten from end to end. I really felt I had no one, and who wants to get involved in a ‘domestic affair’ in any case.”
“I tried to kill myself so many times and now I hope for death, not by my hand, because, you know, I want to see the after life. Some days are better, after telling this story I know it still hurts. I wish to march with you all but after telling this story I’m sad.”
From a Facebook group to a national shutdown, #TheTotalShutdown march organisers have identified August 1 as the day they want to bring the country to a standstill.
This, they said, is one many steps they will be taking in the month of August to hold the government accountable for gender-based violence.
“We’re tired of constantly tweeting and putting on Facebook and mourning women who have died and being upset. There’s a lot that’s happening now, we need to shut this country down. Women are dying every day. We’re being raped, we’re being abused, we’re being trafficked – it’s time, let’s do something about it,” said Ncube.
From the Eastern Cape to the North West, the Western Cape to Limpopo, multiple cities have committed to joining the march. The organisers said groups in Botswana and Lesotho would also be part of the #TheTotalShutdown march.
The organisers have identified key points in South Africa where a memorandum of demands will be handed over to government officials. This includes the legislature of the Western Cape, Union Buildings and the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.
“We’re literally hoping the whole country doesn’t go to work on the day,” said Ntsiki Skosana, one of the spokespersons for #TheTotalShutdown.
The #TotalShutdown march is only allowing women and gender non-conforming people to participate in the march – no men.
“We still stand strong in our stance that no men are permitted on the first of August. We’ve had backlash from men saying ‘oh no why don’t you want us there?’ which speaks to the aspect of consent. We are telling you we don’t want you there and you’re questioning why we said no. It really speaks to the entitlement of men just wanting to be in spaces they are not invited to,” said Ncube.
“August first for us is more of a ‘we are starting to do something’. This is us saying this is the first of many things we are doing to hold the government accountable, the things we want done, and the changes we want made,” said Skosana.
“It was individual women who came together, formed a Facebook group and invited others to join the group – women, [gender non conforming] folks and people from the LGBTQI+ community, and said guys we need to shutdown the country on the first of August,” said Ncube.
One of the critical demands aligned with the protest is the re-establishment of a sexual offences court.
“Why do we not have a specific team of people in government that specifically deal with sexual offences, that specifically deal with violence and children? Because if we have something like this that means these people are sensitised and trained on how to handle such matters,” said Ncube.
“Social media played a big part in getting us together and in mobilising for this movement, because women are talking to each other on WhatsApp, sending each other ideas on what they want happening on the day, even some of the demands the women are sending through social media,” said Skosana.
As the date of the march approaches the organisers will share meeting points and routes in various cities in the public Facebook page. They have urged those who will be attending to sign up on their page.
For those who will not physically be on the streets, the organisers ask them to wear black and red to show their allegiance to this cause.