Uyinene Mrwetyana, Jesse Hess, Leighandré Jegels, Janika Mallo, Lynette Volschenk and Meghan Cremer were all recently murdered as a result of femicide.
Cape Town - Anger and frustration has gripped South Africans across the spectrum as outrage grows over the continued rape and murder of women across the country.

Several protests and marches are planned for Wednesday, including one to Parliament, and petitions are doing the rounds calling for stiffer sentences and even bringing back the death penalty.

President Cyril Ramaphosa sent out a strongly worded statement condemning the killing of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana and Leighandré Jegels from the Eastern Cape.

He said South Africans should hang their heads in shame.

“The murder of these two young women, one at the hands of a stranger and the other killed by a man who was reportedly her boyfriend, remain a stark reminder that the women of South Africa are not safe, either in their homes or in the streets.

“This is a very dark period for us as a country. The assault, rape and murder of South African women is a stain on our national conscience,” Ramaphosa said.

He added: “We have just commemorated Women’s Month, 63 years after the women of 1956 marched for the right to live in freedom. Women in this country live in fear - not of the apartheid police but of their brothers, sons, fathers and uncles. We should all hang our heads in shame”

The public began campaigning through a petition calling for the death sentence to be returned to South Africa as a deterrent to end the scourge of femicide. A total of 500000 South Africans signed a petition on Change.org in support of it. Uyinene Mrwetyana, Jesse Hess, Leighandré Jegels, Janika Mallo, Lynette Volschenk and Meghan Cremer were all recently murdered as a result of femicide.

Last night, a Khayelitsha dwelling, believed to be that of the suspect in Mrwetyana’s murder, was torched.

The City’s Fire and Rescue Services responded, but a volatile crowd prevented firefighters from getting to the house. Fearing for their lives, the firefighters left the area, spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said.

IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa said the party would put forward a motion in Parliament for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

ACDP deputy president Wayne Thring said they were committed to imposing the death penalty for people convicted of premeditated murder.

“This needs to stop, and we cannot let gender-based violence become the norm in this nation. And for perpetrators to commit crimes with impunity. The ACDP has been a proponent of stricter sentences to be enforced in our justice system,” Hlabis said.

Pupils and staff at Sans Souci Girls’ High School protest against gender-based violence and the murder of student Uyinene Mrwetyana. Picture: Supplied
SA Human Rights commissioner Chris Nissen said he was not in favour of bringing back the death penalty.

“We have come through a long history where the death sentence has been disproportionate. The right to life is an important issue and instead we need to focus on how men have to take responsibility and change their behaviour in society. Society also needs to start looking at women differently.”

Chrispin Phiri, spokesperson for the Justice and Correctional Services Ministry, said: “The life sentence is the harshest sentence a court can impose, aside from being viewed as a punishment to the perpetrator and a sense of comfort and justice to the victims of crime and their families.”

Phiri said it would be a contradiction in the law to bring back the death sentence as one of the basic human rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution is the right to life, “There is currently no consideration being given to the death penalty being re-introduced in our law,” he said.

Bernadine Bachar, director for the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, said: “South African is a country in crisis. And the crisis deepens daily. The murder and rape of our women and children must be addressed immediately. We urge the president to call a national state of emergency.”

Meanwhile, UCT has declared a day of mourning and activism against gender-based violence. UCT vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said: “It is crucial that as a community we recognise this moment for what it is.

“A devastating incident of gender-based violence which is utterly unacceptable, shocking, criminal and should never occur in our community or in our society. Sexual and gender-based violence is rampant and our Nene is just one of a long list of women and vulnerable and marginalised people brutalised daily. It is for this reason that we have initiated a gender-based violence campaign that says #JustNo to sexual and gender-based violence.”

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