Today the nation is mourning, led by survivors, the triggered, the angry and the heartbroken.
The pain sweeps across distorted regional lines, starting in Cape Town and making its way up to the rest of the country – this after hearing that 19-year-old Uyinene Mrwetyana, a University of Cape Town student, had her life stolen just over a week ago at Clareinch Post Office in Cape Town.
The words “she shared her trip with her friends, she said where she was going” have continued to fearfully reverberate in my head and on my waning heart as I recount how many times we are reminded to do just this to feel safe.
Are we even surprised that South Africa’s natural disaster season of murdering and violating womxn is in full action at the ending of “Women’s Month”?
The most unnatural of natural disasters, where our government expects victims and survivors of this accelerating femicide and gender-based violence plight to be the voices of reason, and the bodies of action that must take on the debilitating realities of womxn and children in South Africa.
Nationwide, at least twice, even three times in the year, we see an incline in murder and rape reports of womxn, and this time around comes with the country’s leadership who hauntingly is silent.
I wake up this morning wiping yesterday’s tears away. It’s 5am and I know that my trip to work is going to be terrifying as it always is, but this time I actively watched a story go from “Missing Person” to “Rest in Peace”.
A bone-chilling narrative of a missing womxn in SA.
In the words of South African poet, playwright and theatre director Koleka Putuma: “I don’t want to die with my hands up or legs open.”
A united front of fearful, deeply pained and enraged womxn have taken to social media to bring action and awareness of the pandemic that has been killing womxn and children throughout the world, the pandemic being men and the systems at play that gives them power and the high possibility of quite literally being able to get away with murder.
What is being done?
Calls for a national shutdown have been flooding social media feeds, with hashtags for justice and support for victims and survivors of gender-based violence in South Africa.
A social media uproar against government to declare femicide as a national crisis has been made by activists, survivors, mothers and aunts.
This eruption of anguish has brought up platforms for survivors to speak out against who their sexual violence perpetrators are – the bodies that live unapologetically in the streets we travel through our homes and our workplaces.
These online platforms are raising awareness about who these men are as a warning to their next targets and as a caution and safety attempt.
Cellphone tracker apps to share your location wherever you are, sharing strategies to try to stay safe in public transport and how to report incidences of violence and abuse have been disseminated by multiple womxn and queer voices across social media since the recent public reports of gender-based violence.
Mrwetyana was at the post office – in broad daylight. Womxn are exhausted. Are we to beg you not to rape us, are we to plead to you for our lives?
We know that it wouldn’t be enough – it wasn’t enough for Mrwetyana, it wasn’t enough for 22-year old Karabo Mokoena who was devastatingly murdered by her boyfriend in 2017, it wasn’t enough for so many unreported slain womxn at the hands of men.
From 2015 to 2018 the murder of womxn in South Africa increased by 119%.
It’s important to note that these are the reported cases.
We have been alerted of the disturbing facts of femicide and gender-based violence for so long and yet the state of the nation is still the same.
“I can’t take an Uber, go to campus, be out late or too early, be in a restaurant, public space, post office, at work, in a church, park, club, my own home,” shared many distraught voices across Twitter and Instagram.
We live in a society where speaking out, naming your perpetrator and taking legal action to get your life back is the road of most resistance – after pain is even more pain if you live to tell the tale.
This is and has been a crisis, a national crisis.
The series is made possible through a partnership with The Other Foundation. To learn more about its work, visit theotherfoundation.org