Exhausted, sunburnt and a few kilograms lighter, Thato Molosankwe and Jesse le Roux arrived in Mahikeng on Women’s Day after completing a journey that lasted a month after it began on July 9.
Molosankwe had started the journey on his own but met Le Roux on the fourth day in Worcester.
Le Roux was living on the streets because his entire family had fled home, allegedly due to the abuse from his father. At the time that they met, Le Roux did not know how he was going to get back home to Oudtshoorn. However, he joined Molosankwe on the walk after telling him how he had been living on the streets, eating from dustbins owing to bad conditions at home.
Le Roux now plans to remain in Mahikeng, which is Molosankwe’s home town, and start a new life there far from his father. Good Samaritans have already offered him a home and a job.
Many Mahikeng residents gathered at Danville Park where the pair received a heroes' welcome and praised for their efforts to raise awareness about the abuse of women and children. Bikers, cyclists and many others ushered them in as they entered Mahikeng amid ululation and the honking of car hooters. They lined the streets as the pair walked, others holding placards that denounced women and child abuse.
Other walkers who had walked from Mahikeng to Joburg to also raise awareness about the scourge of women and child abuse, were in attendance as well.
Speaking at the event, MEC for Social Development Hoffman Galeng said Molosankwe had done the province proud and put it on the map. He said he wished that many youths who were at the event, especially boys and men, would emulate him.
“What you did today, we will follow in those footsteps. Even gangsters, wherever they are, we wish that when they make plans, they don’t plan with the lives of the girl children and the lives of our mothers at stake,” he said.
Galeng said many things that men do today make other men want to deny their own gender. “Things done by men and boys make us ask God who created them. But we don’t, as we don’t want to offend God as He created them.
“Women are very special. I wish men and boys will treat them as such.
“When Thato saw the things that were happening, of children being killed and raped and our women and sisters being raped, he said, 'Not in My Name’.
“Thato my child, we will at all times remember those words. Men who respect themselves, who regard themselves as men, say ‘Not in our names'.
“When you insult or hit a girl or a woman, you are cursed, we say this today to you,” Galeng said.
Molosankwe told the crowd who had gathered under the scorching sun that an abuser did not have a specific look and that women should not be scared of getting help when they find themselves in abusive relationships.
He reminded men that calling their wives and girlfriends stupid and comparing them to other women, saying those women were better than them, was a form of abuse.
He told of how he first started his anti-abuse walk by approaching a group of men in Khayelitsha. He later found himself on a train, spreading the message from one coach to the next. Molosankwe believes that his walk may have changed lives.
“As I spoke to men along the way, they were prepared to listen. They raised many issues and agreed abuse was a total no-no."
Another official who spoke at the event said after seeing the route that Molosankwe and Le Roux had walked and how far it was, he believed the pair wanted to show the hardship women go through.
“Let’s go home and see to it that the abuse of women and children ends. It should not only end at your home; make sure it’s done at your neighbours as well."
Twenty-one-year old * Tefo who was also at the event said he learnt a lot from Molosankwe.
Tefo said he was the kind of person who used to be harsh to his romantic partners but that was now in the past.
“Today, I learnt the importance of listening to my girlfriends and respecting them so that he could also be respected as a man.
“If we disagree on something, I don’t have to give them dirty looks or be harsh with them,” he said.