This Kak has to Stop

Uyinene Mrwetyana, everybody’s daughter.

These are very dark days for us in South Africa, and it pains me to admit that I have nothing reassuring or funny or uplifting to offer. There is nothing funny or uplifting about femicide and the rape and murder statistics in this country. But I feel the need to say something, anyway, as it’s weighing very heavily on me. It was our 12-year-old daughter, on her phone at breakfast, who told us that Nene’s killer had been identified. As a family gathered around the kitchen counter on an ordinary Tuesday morning we learned the circumstances of her murder. Along with all of South Africa, the details of her disappearance had been a topic of discussion for days. Where could she be? What could have happened? 

On our way to watch The Lion King on Friday evening, my daughter and her best friend ventured their opinions. ‘Maybe she’s just hanging at her boyfriend’s house,’ one of them offered hopefully. ‘Maybe,’ I agreed, trying to assuage their fears, but knowing – as these things go – that the chances of her being found alive were slim to non-existent. And then the truth, the shocking, devastating details of her attack, were announced. I think I couldn’t process the horror right away. I paid bills, bought a bed, did some washing, cooked bobotie, added extravagant amounts of butter and sugar to the yellow rice. 

On Facebook I read the reactions of friends, all reeling, all petrified, many wanting to leave the country. It was in a state of high anxiety that I walked the 500 metres to my yoga class this morning, leaving my phone behind (just in case I was mugged on the way, or worse) and constantly looking over my shoulder. At one point a man with a briefcase walked a few steps ahead of me, and I glared at the back of his head, daring him to turn around, to try anything, just try. The magic of yoga lies less in the softening and strengthening of the limbs than the softening and strengthening of the heart; the remembering of how deeply connected we all are as human beings. It took just a few moments of hearing the soft, mellifluous sounds of my Hindi instructor’s voice guiding us through the Asanas to make big, splashy tears drop down on my mat. Nene was everybody’s daughter. The pain of her rape and death is not relegated to her family and the ones who personally knew her. 

We failed you, Nene. Our beautiful, innocent child. We also failed Meghan Cremer, Hannah Cornelius, the 14-year-old girl whose body was found in a backyard in Heinz Park a few days ago. So many victims; too many to mention by name. According to recent stats, a woman is murdered every three hours in South Africa. Every 3 hours, people. We are failing as a nation. The ANC’s P.R. team issuing a facile, generalised statement making everyone wonder, where is our leader? If ever there was a time we needed comfort and reassurance; to be told that this isn’t okay, that there is a plan in place; that addressing the rampant and growing levels of femicide in this country is high on our government’s agenda, that time is now. Where is uCyril? Playing Candy Crush in the bath?

We are a fatherless nation. But if nothing else I have learned that if you’re going to wait for a man to pour your wine or give you permission to speak you’re going to be mute and mightily thirsty. So, what I can offer is this: there is power and strength in numbers. A short while back we believed ousting Zuma was a lost cause but we showed up to toyi toyi anyway, and what do you know? The old doos went. Before we give up and move en masse to Portugal (they eat a lot of sardines, I’m just saying), let’s find every march we can and show up and shout and scream and make our collective outrage known. 

On 9 August 1956, 20 000 women marched on the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest against the Pass Laws. It was the biggest march by women this country had ever seen. The women stood silently for 30 minutes and then started singing a protest song, Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (‘Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock’). We cannot sit in silence. We can’t live like this, constantly afraid and looking over our shoulders. Petrified to send our daughters out into the world. Always on the alert, in our minds fending off attack. All of you based in SA, find out where the marches are happening in your area and show up. Sing, shout, do whatever it takes to be heard. We learned long ago that ain’t no man gon’ save us. It’s time to make a noise and take matters into our own hands. Let’s make history and make this the biggest gathering of women our country as seen. We owe it to Nene, to Meghan, to our daughters. Not only that, our lives depend on it.

15 thoughts on “This Kak has to Stop

  1. And let no woman be ‘ sold’’ by her family nor ‘given away’ by her dad – we are not ‘owned’ – we make our own choices

    1. Right now, a few hours ago on Sea Point Main Road, a young guy got out of a taxi as we stood waiting at the traffic light and asked me how much lobola for my 15-year-old daughter standing beside me in her school uniform. Like she is a commodity, a vase or a packet of chips. I tried to explain how offensive that was but he was utterly uncomprehending. This, this lies at the very heart of the crimes against women.

  2. Very well written! All of this upsets me so much, I just want to yell from the roof tops. A lot of education needs to be done. People must also come to a point where they realise that certain things in culture aren’t always good. Those things demeaning women, should be scrapped.

  3. Well written, but are the leaders listening. Zuma himself got away with it. This set a precedent and when Shapiros hard hitting cartoon of Zuma raping justice there were racial outcries.
    What has happened to South Africans? A man has just hung and strangled his 4 children because his wife divorced him. Why this absolute and shocking cruelty.
    Let’s go to farm genocides. The women are mostly raped or mutilated ( my mother was a victim), husbands are tortured and murdered.
    Why .
    This simply cannot be passed off as apartheid being the reason . The people commiting such cruel acts are not victims of apartheid they are the so called free borns.

  4. Thank you for spreading a suggestion that might be heard and makes those who choose to be of a march feel like they can do something constructive, instead of being mentally tortured each day reading about one tragedy after the other, year after year, while trying to keep focused and positive about their day ahead.

  5. I’m not sure what you lot are waiting to uproot and eff off from that country. There are so many other countries that you can go to that aren’t a living hell. How many more will need to meet a violent and barbaric end before it’s time to call it quits and upstick. Is it getting better? Is it getting worst? Is this the place you want your kids to grow up and have kids one day?

    1. Yes, and then one wonders what the Iraqi’s, Libyans’ Afghanistan’s Palestinians say to their kids decades after decades. They cannot give their kids a guarantee as to when the West will stop invading and bombing them for their resources.

      Then we can look at the slow deaths, aside from wars/murder, there’s technology chemicals, GMO foods, our toxic oceans, carbon air is spread with nuclear testing, agriculture’s pesticides, our oceans plastic and now space debris swirling around our Mother Earth. CT need never have had a drought, if the water had not been off from our mountain.

      SA is a beautiful country, if only, if only, if only in 1652 vision and foresight had gone into the mess we’ve ended up with., As someone here says about the Born-free’s, Does children have to pay for the sins of the fathers and does the born-free’s have to clean up what they’ve been left with.

      Can we keep blaming Van Riebeeck and Apartheid, which took decades and centuries to build their empires, as similarly it would take decades and maybe a century for SA’ to rebuild.

      Has these atrocities left room for crime? On one level no, on another yes. If your parents and grandparents carries scars and or you were orphaned because of the past violence and learnt to grow up hating the perpetrators, then SA still has a long way to go.

      Do I have the tolerance and patience to wait, of course not. I am selfish and live in fear and I want my kids to be safe. SA’s problems are unique and if to nothing else, we have to acknowledge that.
      I switch on the international news and the rest of the world looks pretty unattractive right now.
      Excessive greed will have to stop, if we want to leave our children with a peaceful future.

  6. The problem is we are way too passive. We should have been marching every week long ago, like they do in Paris and Hong Kong and many parts of the world for months these days, until….
    we are heard. Crime has spun out of control and increasing. We should be marching against CRIME EVERY Saturday morning, rain or shine until we know for sure the numbers have decreased by a minimum of 80%. We cannot continue to live in fear like this all the time. It is totally ABnormal.

    Our courts are too busy fighting government parties, being childish. Ramaphoza says, ‘lets open more courts’. No Ramaphoza, (a) STOP CRIME! Get your police properly trained and increase their staff content. (b) Harsh penalties need to be taken. SA is too lenient.
    Use Robben Island for the criminals and that way they cannot escape or be let off the hook so easy.

    Let’s get serious and march, but lets do so EVERY week. It is for our children and grandchildren.

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