Almost three months after slain UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana, 19, was buried, her family is gearing up to launch a foundation in her honour as a promise to continue the fight against gender-based violence (GBV).
Uyinene’s rape and murder by former post office worker, Luyanda Botha, 42, in August, sparked outrage in South Africa and around the world. Botha pleaded guilty to raping and murdering the student and two weeks ago was handed three life sentences for the crime.
As her family prepares to launch the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation on Friday, in Makhanda, Eastern Cape, they remember her as an outspoken, self-confident young woman who stood against all forms of social injustices - be it political, patriarchal and gender-based injustice. The foundation will preserve her legacy and also join in the fight against GBV.
“It’s actually ironic that she departed this earth through the very same injustices she fought against right till the end. We choose not to view her as a victim of a heinous crime, but rather a person whose passing managed to cast a spotlight on GBV ills in our society, a person whose name has been used as a rallying call in the fight against GBV,” says Thembelani Mrwetyana, her uncle and family spokesperson.
“We intend on developing programmes that will come as a result of the seminars/plenaries that we plan to host on the day of the launch. These programmes’ main aim will be to assist students and young girls,” he adds.
While the foundation’s launch falls within the 16 Days of Activism against GBV, Mrwetyana says the family waited for sentencing to be concluded before forging ahead with the foundation in the hope it will bring them peace.
“Nothing can really console us,” he says. “But within the confines of what is available in the law, we are pleased by the outcome of the sentencing, although it will never bring her back.
“This tragedy has taken various chapters for us and even though the sentencing brings closure to the legal chapter - the courts and all, but other than that, there is absolutely no closure as a family. I am not sure if there’s any end to it for us,” he explains.
And while the Mrwetyana family tries to pick up the pieces, he says they are all still shattered, with no end to the pain and while a lot has happened in a short space of time, their wound is still very fresh.
“If you judge by the outpouring of support and the anger that erupted in South Africa, in our pain and misery, her death was not in vain and that is what the foundation wishes to express, we are joining in the fight against this cruel crime that has robbed us of a sister, a daughter, a friend full of so much potential,” he explains.
The foundation will be led by the Mrwetyana family under the stewardship of her mother, Nomangwane Mrwetyana.
Lindiwe Khoza of Civil Society Organisation, which participated in the protest staged outside the JSE in September to address GBV, says Botha’s sentencing for Uyinene’s murder should not be viewed as a way of keeping civil society quiet but should be a conversation starter.
“That sentence should be a benchmark that we need to use in recalling all outstanding cases to make sure they are met with the same punishment. We are pleased with it, although it will not bring Uyinene back,” says Khoza.
Responding to the clarion call, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that R1.1 billion would be redirected to fight against GBV and femicide - focusing on ending GBV, strengthening the criminal justice system, enhancing the legal and policy framework and enhancing social services like shelters and also the economic empowerment of women. Work that Khoza says has already started.