On the fourth anniversary of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana’s death, her family have reiterated calls for the post office where she was raped and murdered to be converted into a place of healing.
Uyinene went to the Clareinch post office to pick up a parcel and ended up being brutally raped and murdered by a male post office worker on August 24, 2019 (“Student’s murder causes uproar,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, September 5, 2019).
The Western Cape High Court handed Luyanda Botha, 42, three life sentences for rape and murder and five years for defeating the ends of justice (“Three life sentences for Uyinene’s murderer,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, November 21, 2019).
Her murder sent shock waves across the country and re-ignited the fight against gender-based violence for many.
Hundreds gathered at Roscommon House (Uyinene’s former residence) on Saturday for the Unity Walk Against GBV to Clareinch post office, taking Uyinene’s route on that fateful day. The walk was held by the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation, in collaboration with UCT.
Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, UCT SRC president Hlengiwe Dube, former FeesMustFall leader and Langa councillor Lwazi Phakade, and Langa For Men’s Luyolo Ngesi were among the speakers.
At Roscommon House, UCT student Ajani Mnyandu recalled the day they heard of Uyinene’s disappearance.
“We held prayer meetings during the day and vigils at night. While many hoped that she was simply with a boy, the harsh reality of living in South Africa was that she could very well be lying dead in a ditch somewhere. And later that week, my worst fears became a reality when I saw an article that someone had been arrested in connection with her disappearance and later an article on her killing,” he said.
Mr Ngesi said Langa For Men had been started at around the time of Uyinene’s death when he was having conversations with people on why women were told not to wear short things or walk at night – and why men were not told not to rape.
“We are here because of men that have failed to understand manhood, we are here because of men that have failed in honouring the spirit of human beings and have no respect for women. Boys need your love, your guidance, spaces where they can be vulnerable to cry out without being judged.”
Dr Mbombo said: “Uyinene’s mother and family had hopes and dreams for her. Her daughter finished high school and they had sent her to university not thinking she would not return. Gender-based violence is not only dependent on your social economic circumstances – women regardless are being raped, abused and murdered simply because they are women. Of all the places her family would have warned her of, the post office would not be one of them.”
Uyinene’s mother, Nomangwane Mrwetyana, said the wound of her daughter’s murder was still fresh and she made a plea for the post office to be transformed, saying they did not want any other family to have to go through what they had gone through. She called on the men present to hold each other accountable.
“We want this place that caused us pain to be transformed to a place of healing – whether it be a museum, wellness centre or library – something that will add value to the lives of young people.”
UCT deputy vice-chancellor for transformation, student affairs and social responsiveness Professor Elelwani Ramugondo said: “The month of August is not only for the country to celebrate women. It is during this month that we are also reminded of – and we intensify our efforts in – confronting sexual and gender-based violence. As a university, we put every effort toward creating an environment on and around campus where students and colleagues can feel safe.”