'This is not the SA we fought for'

05 September 2019 - 10:24
By Tanya Farber, Aron Hyman, Dan Meyer and Anthony Molyneaux
An enraged student bangs on the shield of an anti-riot cop during a demonstration  outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER An enraged student bangs on the shield of an anti-riot cop during a demonstration outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

University of Cape Town chancellor Graça Machel relived the horror of her daughter losing her eye to gender violence at the memorial service of Uyinene Mrwetyana yesterday.

Machel tapped into the zeitgeist by saying: "In South Africa, it is in our homes where we are nurturing and raising rapists and murderers.

"That is not happening in our classrooms, it is happening in our houses."

Her final anecdote struck a chord with those present as many of the speeches had mentioned how Mrwetyana was one of thousands of women who are beaten, injured, raped and killed across SA every day.

"I am a mother of a girl who lost her eye to gender violence," she said.


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"My daughter had two beautiful eyes and then a man raised his hand against her."

When Machel was struggling to come to terms with it, her daughter had comforted her by saying: "We are lucky because I am alive. I am here. I have one eye, and with that one eye, I can see you and see my own children. Many others have died instantly."

Machel concluded: "I am so pained that Nene wasn't lucky like my child. This is not the country we fought for."

The memorial service of Mrwetyana, 19, took place on the steps of Sarah Baartman Hall and flowed all the way down the plaza to a podium where students placed flowers in memory of their slain friend as they waited for her family to arrive.

The chair of UCT's council, Sipho Pityana, described Mrwetyana's murder as "barbaric, violent and cruel", adding: "Our homes are not safe. Our cinemas, our malls, our churches . nowhere is safe anymore."

Elsewhere in Cape Town, police used stun grenades, a water cannon and pepper spray against protesters trying to disrupt the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Cape Town yesterday.

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The crowd was demanding to hear from President Cyril Ramaphosa about the government's response to gender-based violence.

Several thousand students, who demonstrated outside parliament following the rape and murder of Mrwetyana, made their way to the Cape Town International Convention Centre, where the four-day WEF gathering began yesterday.

Police inside the convention centre instructed delegates not to go near the windows.

Protesters broke through a police cordon at the Heerengracht traffic circle and ran to the convention centre, where dozens of African leaders are among the delegates attending a four-day meeting.

Bedlam broke out as the crowd arrived at the CTICC's main door. Scuffles broke out with police trying to prevent them from entering and drive them back.

Heerengracht filled with protesters under the sky bridge linking the convention centre's two buildings, disrupting traffic in the CBD. The crowd chanted "We want Cyril" and "We want justice".

When Olive Shisana, from the president's interim committee on gender-based violence and femicide tried to address the crowd, she was booed.

Protesters with duct tape over their mouths and dressed in black demanded to know what tangible steps the government was taking to address the crisis.

Shisana said the interim committee had nearly completed its public consultations and was taking a "scientific approach to find out how to address the problem".

The protesters were unswayed, demanding to know what the budget was for the government's strategy and when the first steps would be taken.

One told Shisana: "We have rape survivors here. We are here today not to tell of our survival stories, but because of our body counts. We are no longer surviving rapes. We are here today because it's no longer rape. We are being raped and murdered."