Nomangwane Mrwetyana speaks about her daughter at the launch of the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation in the High Performance Centre at Kingswood College on 29 November. (Sue Maclennan, Grocott’s Mail)
- Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and killed in the Clareinch post office in Claremont, Cape Town, on 24 August 2019.
- SA Post Office employee Luyanda Botha confessed to killing her and was handed three life terms in jail for her rape and murder.
- Uyinene’s death, while performing a mundane errand on a Saturday afternoon, sparked countrywide protests with women asking “Am I Next?”.
Uyinene Mrwetyana’s face will forever be etched in the minds and hearts of South African women following her brutal rape and murder in August 2019.
The first-year University of Cape Town student died at the hands of SA Post Office employee Luyanda Botha while going to collect a parcel near campus on a Saturday afternoon in the quiet suburb of Claremont in Cape Town. The 42-year-old Botha was handed a life sentence for murder, two life sentences on two counts of rape and five years for defeating the course of justice.
News of her killing sparked anger across South Africa, a country that was already struggling to comprehend the excessive rate at which women and children were being raped and killed.
Prior to news of her death, karate and boxing champion Leighandre “Baby Lee” Jegels had died at the hands of her then boyfriend, who shot and killed her, despite Jegels having taken out a protection order against him.
Uyinene’s killing while running a mundane errand, as well as the killing of Jegels, the epitome of what a “physically strong” woman is meant to be, were the last straw for many South African women that month, leading them to take to the streets in their numbers asking “Am I Next?“
It’s almost a year since the death of both women, both from East London.
News24 spoke to Uyinene’s mother, Nomangwane Mrwetyana, to find out how the family had been coping since their loss.
“The past 12 months since the passing of Uyi have not been easy for us as a family. The period has been characterised by countless sleepless nights. It has been an emotional roller coaster, a mixed bag of emotions ranging from hurt, sadness, anger and frustration.”
She said the family was taking things one day at a time, because they realised their loss was something they could not erase or take back. But they had also felt some comfort from those around them.
“By the Grace of God and the support we received from people from all walks of life, there has been a sense of comfort.”
During the 19-year-old’s funeral in her hometown of Beacon Bay, Nomangwane announced in a letter to her daughter that she would be establishing a foundation in her honour to continue doing the work Uyinene believed in – putting an end to gender-based violence as well as the quest for gender equality.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, much of the foundation’s work has moved online, Nomangwane said. The foundation had formed partnerships with other organisations also fighting against gender-based violence, and creating awareness around the matter.
“We provided training on basic counselling skills to communities [and] online virtual counselling,” she added.
Referring to the continued murder of women since Uyinene’s death, Nomangwane said it was a “fundamentally painful” reality for her.
“It is a stark reminder of the violent society we live in.
It seems we are fighting a losing battle which brings a sense of hopelessness and frustration. And the question is when shall enough be enough? It seems like there is no concerted effort from government to curb this crime.
She said the reactionary approach government seemed to have adopted was “very frustrating”.
“Men of this country, as the president has said, seem to be at war with women. But what is government doing? Unless harsher sentences are imposed on perpetrators we [will] not see the change we wish to see.”
She had a message for South African women – “arise and speak out”.
“This is the struggle of our lifetime. It is embedded in structural and systemic patriarchal gender norms. I wish to encourage us to ‘arise and speak out’ against this despicable violent crime against women and children.
“Let us continue to work on the ground to break this cycle of toxic masculinity by holding men accountable for their actions. We refuse to be silent, like the women of 1956 who marched to the Union Buildings. Let us arise and hold hands in the fight against GBV.”