’We get angry, we bring flowers and then tomorrow the vicious cycle continues’

At the commemoration at Clareinch post office, from left, are Reverend Mark White, organiser Kate Christie, Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez, postmaster David Meinking, Post Office to Parliament project manager Emily O’ Ryan and ward councillor Sharon Cottle.

Despite the outrage that followed Uyinene Mrwetyana’s rape and murder, women are still being brutalised and killed in South Africa at an alarming rate, says Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez.

She was speaking at a memorial service for the 19-year-old UCT student, held on the second anniversary of her death, on Tuesday August 24, at Clareinch post office, the scene of her murder.

“It’s sad, we get angry, we bring flowers and then tomorrow the vicious cycle continues,” said Ms Fernandez.

Gender-based violence (GBV) was both a community issue and an organisational one, she said. “They say it takes a community to raise a child, and the only way we can eliminate the surge of GBV is by being visible to hold every individual to account.”

Pointing to the years-long backlog in processing DNA samples, Ms Fernandez said the justice system remained broken and there were still police who failed to support women who reported GBV cases.

In November 2019, Luyanda Botha, the postal worker who raped and murdered Uyinene, was handed three life sentences (“Three life sentences for Uyinene’s murderer,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, November 21, 2019)

“We were utterly devastated by what happened, and we hold this commemoration in honour of Uyinene and her family,” said Kate Christie, of Harfield Village, who organised the event, attended by more than 50 people, including residents, university students, police and government officials. They placed flowers; Reverend Mark White, of the Mountain View Church, prayed and Hlumelo Marepula and Caleb Kerridge sang Amazing Grace.

David Meinking, the postmaster at Clareinch post office, said: “As a post-office employee, I am still ashamed and outraged and saddened by what happened to Uyinene in 2019.

Hlumelo Marepula and Caleb Kerridge singing Amazing Grace at the commemoration.

All postal workers in the country felt tainted, embarrassed and guilty over what had happened, he said. They had run the #Notinourname campaign in solidarity with those fighting violence against women and they had tried to raise money for Uyinene’s family.

“We know that this may not be truly enough to ease the suffering that the family has to go through. We hope with this gesture the family could feel our love and support” he said, apologising on behalf of the SA Post Office to Uyinene’s family.

Ward councillor Sharon Cottle said: “Tonight we are here to commemorate Uyinene, and the broader message to young and old women across generations is to be bold and speak out against GBV.”

Emily O’ Ryan is the project manager of the Uyinene Foundation’s Post Office to Parliament campaign. “The campaign is part of Women’s Month to acknowledge the march of 1956, and this campaign recognises that we lost Uyinene at the post office,” she said.

The national campaign asks whether women are more free from fear and violence in the 65 years since the 1956 Women’s March in Pretoria. The public has been asked to note concerns about GBV on postcards which will be taken to Parliament on Saturday August 28. Postcards were handed out at Tuesday’s event, but you can also visit the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation at www.uyinenefoundation.co.za/p2p to write a letter to Parliament.

Winnie Mkoko, left, and Hannah van Niekerk from Varsity College placing flowers at the post office.