Women march against abuse

Confronted on a daily basis by news of acts of extreme violence and abuse against women and children, women have challenged the South African Police Services (SAPS) to act decisively against criminals and women abusers this Mandela Month.

Women’s rights activists have marched in Gugulethu, calling for an end to crime and domestic and child abuse in the area.

The small group marched from Fezeka municipal offices to Gugulethu police station to demand change and to claim back women’s dignity.

The march was spearheaded by JL Zwane Church’s Women’s Manyano, other churches, the Treatment Action Campaign, Movement for Change and the Gugulethu Development Forum. Holding up a large banner which read “Kulenyanga kaMandela sithi singomama nabantwana sanele kukuhlukunyezwa. Wathinta abafazi wathinta imbokotho” (that loosely translates as we celebrate Mandela Month as women and children, we are saying we are tired of being abused. Enough is enough, you’ve struck the rock, you’ve struck women”), the women pleaded for change in their community.

The angry women said the phenomenon seemed to continue unabated, reaching unprecedented proportions.

Despite the pouring rain and being in the midst of a church day, dozens of members of the Gugulethu community came together at Fezeka municipal offices on Sunday July 9, to march and show solidarity with the victims of rape and relatives of those murdered.

Chairperson of Women’s Manyo, Mandisa Lehoka said their faith gave them the foundation to build a violence-free country. “We can choose to do one of two things. Firstly, we can ignore the problem and hope that it will go away. Secondly, we can stand up and act. We chose to stand up and reclaim women’s dignity. We want women and children to be able to live more than 75 years as the Bible has spelt it out.

“Women have the right to walk freely but it seems they are chained. Men are given every right to do whatever they like. We are saying enough is enough. And we want action from the police. We have noticed that most crimes are caused by ex-convicts. Those are our children but they must be disciplined for their acts,” she said.

She said the main objective was not only to stand together in solidarity for the protection of women’s rights, their safety, and those of their families but to send a strong message to say enough is enough.

Their call was supported by a couple of men, including mayoral committee for area central, Siyabulela Mamkeli, and seven-year-old Shamiella van Roy. The young Shamiella carried her placard with a message that read “Put yourselves in our shoes, #feel it? #hurtful hey???”

Community activist Nompumelelo Mantanga said women can only stand together to march towards a world that respects their rights. She said it was about time that women and children got the respect they deserve.

In support of the march and women, Mr Mamkeli shared the story of the recent rape of his niece. He said the march spoke to him directly. “My brother’s daughter was raped three weeks ago, here in Gugulethu. So you cannot say it won’t happen to you. This is a new phenomenon at the scale that it is happening. We need to fight the scourge of rape and abuse,” he said.

He pledged to speak to Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille about the concerns contained in a memorandum that was handed to the police.

Samora Nompunga, from the Gugulethu Development Forum, appealed to men to stand and fight the scourge. “We are against the abuse and the killings. We know if we kill women and children, we are killing our future leaders and generation. We are saying not in our name,” he said.

Singing and chanting in front of the police station, the group called for women to be treated with respect. The list of demands in the memorandum also included that women should be feel safe in their own homes, that the police force be strengthened by employing more officers, that police to do more regular street patrols, that police adopt a zero tolerance approach to the murder of women and children, that police officers who are stationed in the charge office be trained to deal with complaints of domestic violence and that police be trained to give victims of domestic violence or abuse written advice about their rights.