A year later since the passing of Uyinene Mrwetyana
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
A year later since the passing of Uyinene Mrwetyana: The Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation is asking, what has changed?’
South Africa’s crime statistics for 2018/19 reveals that close to 3000 women were murdered. This means a woman is murdered every three hours in this country.
Like Uyinene Mrwetyana, in whose name the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation was established, many of those women were also raped or sexually assaulted before they were murdered.
The number of reported sexual offences increased to 52,420 in 2018/19.
It is widely recognised that rape and sexual assault cases are, for many reasons under-reported or unreported to police and the number of women who are affected by these heinous crimes is likely to be much higher. Investigation capacity in the SA Police Services remains poor. Directors of Public Prosecutions offices are unacceptably understaffed and under-skilled. Without the certainty of effective investigation, arrest, prosecution and harsh sentences, there can be no remedying these systemic problems.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has acknowledged that this country has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world. Last year, the president commissioned the Interim Steering Committee on Gender-Based Violence Femicide (ISCGBVF) to prepare an Emergency Response Action Plan (ERAP) that would be implemented over six months. He convened the Joint Sitting of Parliament to discuss the state of gender-based violence and unite the country behind a national plan. He charged the ISCGBVF to implement the plan and report back weekly on progress made.
The plan was presented to Parliament and approved on the 18th of September 2019. Consequently, the Gender-based Violence and Femicide National Strategic Plan (GBVF-NSP) was born. President Ramaphosa and government departments rallied around the plan and an amount of R1, 6 billion has been sourced through budget reprioritization.
Among other things President Ramaphosa promised the following
Harsher sentences for offenders crimes against women and children should attract harsher minimum sentences and bail and parole for perpetrators of rape and murder against women and children must be reconsidered
Sexual offences courts: an increase of 11 courts to improve conviction rates and provide comprehensive and appropriate services to ensure survivors of sexual offences are not subject to further trauma.
National Register of GBV offenders to be “overhauled and modernized” and parliament requested to amend legislation to make the register public.
Cold gender-based violence cases that had been closed or not properly investigated would be reviewed.
Other systemic challenges including the backlog of cases, delays in DNA testing and the availability of rape test kits in our police stations would be addressed.
The budget allocation for these funds follows: Access to justice for victims and survivors - R394 849 207; Change norms and behaviour through high level prevention efforts - R179 188 480; Urgently respond to victims and survivors of GBV - R517 000 000; Strengthen Accountability and architecture to adequately respond to the scourge of GBVF - R20 038 412 and a reprioritisation of interventions that facilitate economic opportunities for women.
The Foundation is committed to keeping the government accountable on how these funds are allocated and spent.
The Emergency Response Action Plan (ERAP) (April 2020) report presents a broad overview of progress between October 2019 and March 2020. In many cases there has been progress made, in other instances, none. While the Foundation recognises that the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown may have affected the implementation of the plan, the pandemic has also exacerbated the urgency of intervention. Statistics suggest an increase in domestic and other forms of GBV during this time. We also want to continue to encourage the public to hold the government accountable on the ethical and just allocation and distribution of these funds so that they are appropriately used for the matters they have been put aside to address. We want to continue to engage with these bi-annual/quarterly reports and the progress noted in order to understand whether progress is going as specified or fast enough.
There have been dozens of hashtag and other campaigns around GBV over the past few years. These include those that happened after Uyinene’s passing.Uyi Uyi’s death sparked a movement around the country, where women took to the streets asking, #Am I Next?
In solidary with the chilling question, am I next? Women mobilized through the #IAmNene hashtag with recognition of the horrific reality that any of us can fall victim to the tragedy that befell Uyinene – that is the curse of waking up every day and existing as a young girl/woman in South Africa.
We have seen all these hashtags arise over the last 10-plus years and now we are asking #WhatHasChanged? How many more hashtags must be created for any kind of respite to enter the lives of the most vulnerable in our population?!
The Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation will not lose momentum.
We are calling on all South Africans to Arise and Speak Out against this despicable crime and all forms of injustices against women. We hope that #IAriseAndISpeakOut becomes a living breathing testament of young girls and women across our country. More than just a hashtag, this is a civic movement built by the foundation and spearheaded by young people committed to combating gender-based violence. We arise because Uyinene’s name and the impact of her short life and legacy lives on. Her memory has not been erased by her death but has rather ignited a flame that calls for us to speak out. We speak out to action the ideals that she held dear and stood for but also to hold our government accountable for its plans to end the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa.