Wits University held an #AMINEXT march against gender-based violence, following the rape and murder of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana and UWC student, Jesse Hess.
BY LWAZI MASEKO and NTOMBI MKANDHLA
“We will call you by your name and there is no place to hide,” said Nelson Mandela University chancellor Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi at the Wits #AmINext march held at Wits University on Monday, September 9.
Fraser-Moleketi, who was accompanied by former first lady Zanele Mbeki, was speaking to the crowd outside the Great Hall on East Campus about gender-based violence (GBV), which she described as an “inter-generational struggle”. She called for sustainable action against GBV to ensure that violence against women is not an endless cycle.
“To leadership in government, think of the interventions required that will make that difference,” Fraser-Moleketi said.
“We are tired, we don’t know who to turn to and we don’t know what else to do to keep our lives safe,” said Zikhona Maloyi, a member of the Women’s Safe Space, a whatsapp-based support group.
Maloyi said the university is responsible for the wellbeing and safety of students, “[however], you get raped on campus and your rapist is sitting next to you in a lecture,” she added.
Actress and activist Rosie Motene told the crowd, “I salute those who expose [GBV perpetrators]. We are tired with marches, we are tired of hashtags. Action needs to be taken: this is our land, we deserve security.
“In 1994, behind the Nunnery (at Wits) was where my boyfriend decided I needed to be punished, and that is where he beat me,” she said, adding that it took her nine years to realise it was not her fault.
Motene told Wits Vuvuzela that institutions need to be held accountable for GBV issues.
“Even if a member of the university staff resigns after committing a [GBV-related] crime, the university needs to be held responsible,” she said.
“It is very important to highlight all kinds of abuse of any kind,” said Junior Kobe, a second-year BA student.
Kobe said there is a stigma within the LGBTQIA+ community that keeps victims of GBV from reporting or sharing their experiences, out of fear of what people will think of them.
“How are they going to believe me as a queer if I say some other girl raped me?” Kobe said.
Kobe, a GBV survivor, said she hopes that students are taken seriously and cases of GBV are resolved.
“I have never filed a case here (at Wits), I feel like it is just going to sit on a table and nothing is going to happen,” she said.
SRC president Sisanda Mbolekwa handed over a memorandum to university registrar Carol Crosley and Gender Equity Office (GEO) director Charlene Beukes as part of the event. The list of demands included a call for increased accessibility to rape kits and more security visibility on campuses.
“Your cameras work when we are protesting, but not when we are being violated,” said Mbolekwa, explaining that the security cameras need to be operational at all times to catch perpetrators. The groups that compiled the list of demands also called for safer spaces for women and the LGBTQIA+ community and for all students found guilty of GBV to be expelled with immediate effect.
“The university needs to take a victim-centred approach,” Mbolekwa said, adding that the institution needs to prioritise rape cases. The group also demanded that Wits University, in collaboration with the South African Police Service, open a police station in Braamfontein, a demand that was very well received by the crowd.
Beukes said she is aware of criticism aimed at the GEO regarding the treatment of reported cases. Without giving details about the criticism, Beukes said if there are people who feel their complaints have not been properly dealt with, students should talk to her so that they can be dealt with properly.
Dr Paul Goldschagg, a lecturer from the education campus, told Wits Vuvuzela that he urged men to “realise that they have to change the way they think and act”, adding that “women must be able to walk safely, live normal lives and this must stop”.
Nthabeleng Ntsane, a Wits residence housekeeper and mother who marched with her six-year-old daughter, Ntsane, said she hopes the government hears the please.
“Our children are not safe. We cannot leave our children with their own fathers, our own brothers. I need to teach her and let her know that being a female in South Africa is a fight,” Ntsane said.
FEMALE AND FOREIGN
“Me being female is not my only fear, but also being foreign, especially Nigerian foreign,” said Tiwa, a third-year architecture student.
“I think it is very important for human beings to understand we are all foreign,” said Tiwa, adding that regardless where people find themselves in the world, they are foreign.
“Living here for 13 years, I was always so scared to claim my own identity,” she said, adding that people often treat her differently because she is a foreigner.
Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, Dean of Students Jerome September said there will be a review of residence and first-year orientation culture.
“We take action against both student and staff GBV perpetrators,” he said. However, he emphasised, the university cannot do anything unless a case is reported: “People need to report as quickly as possible.”
Ntsika Mabe, a first-year computer science student, said he attended the march to show solidarity with GBV survivors and avoid being “neutral”.
“I thought of it as a sports match. Being neutral in a game means you are fine with whatever side wins,” the 20-year-old said.
The event was part of a countrywide response to the rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a University of Cape Town student, at the end of August and the murder of Jesse Hess, a student at the University of Western Cape, on August 30. The event was hosted in collaboration with various student collectives including the Wits SRC, Women’s Safe Space, Black Womxn Caucus and Amnesty International.
FEATURED IMAGE: A crowd of people marching in support of gender-based violence victims. Photo: Ortal Hadad
- Wits Vuvuzela, Amnesty Wits campaigns against sexual and gender-based violence, Jul 31, 2019.
- Wits Vuvuzela, A race to end gender-based violence, Apr 18, 2019.