Picture: Supplied

Johannesburg - Women across the country were due to unite and take to the streets today in the fight against gender-based violence. #TheTotalShutdown will see thousands of women march in the country. While some are marching in solidarity with victims of gender-based violence, for others, tragic reality has hit home.

Poet Mthokozisi Mazibuko said she lost her 54-year-old cousin, Yvonne Mzangwa, and her three young grandchildren in a fire in Rockville, Soweto on June 2.

“From what we were told, my cousin and her grandchildren were in the house with her boyfriend. We do not know how the fire started, but we have not been able to trace the boyfriend since then,” Mazibuko said. Sinethemba, 7, and her sibling Buhlebezwe, 3, died.

Two-year-old Slindokuhle died after spending two weeks in the intensive care unit of a hospital, while Mzangwa died in hospital just three days after Slindokuhle was buried.

“All my cousin’s girl children each lost a child in the fire. It is tragic. During that time we were literally going from the hospital to the graveyard,” said Mazibuko.

She said she had survived abuse at the hands of her former partner.

“You will hear about women being abused but if it has never happened to you, you wouldn’t understand. I’ve had a hand laid on me. I have had words and things said to me that emotionally crippled me up to this point. Hence, I decided it is time I stood up and fought for myself,” Mazibuko said.

On Monday, Ndileka Mandela, who has been campaigning to get women to join the march, drew attention to the disappearance of Noma Kunene, the deputy director at non-governmental organisation A Re Ageng Social Services, who had played a key role in blowing the whistle in the apparent fraudulent behaviour by some officials at the Gauteng Department of Social Development involving some R10 million.

Mandela wrote on her Facebook page: “5 months later Noma Kunene remains missing after blowing the whistle in connection with misappropriation of funds regarding Life Esidimeni. As we all march on Wednesday (today), let us also march for her and all other women missing, as that is part of violence against women.”

The march has been backed by civil rights organisations opposed to woman abuse and the SA Human Rights Commission.

No men are allowed to participate in the march.

Karabo Marakalala, 23, will be marching for her late mother, Jane, who died after she was shot four times in their home in Mabopane, Tshwane on May 14, twice in the chest, once in the head and leg.

“My mother was working as a security guard for the Department of Health. We suspect her killer was either from work or it was someone close to her.

“Her boyfriend came once to offer his condolences. He attended the funeral. We haven’t seen him since. I now live in fear because I do not know who killed her,” Marakalala said.

Official data released recently confirmed that femicide and sexual crimes against women in the country have increased by an alarming rate over the past two years.

Statistics South Africa revealed in its report, titled "Crime against Women in South Africa", that the murder rate of women shot up by a shocking 117% between 2015 and 2016/17. The number of women who experienced sexual offences also jumped from 31665 in 2015/16 to 70813 in 2016/17, an increase of 53%.

The murder of girl children is also soaring. Noluthando Masango, 6, was found possibly raped and killed after her family missed a R5000 ransom deadline on Thursday last week.

A Limpopo father was arrested on Saturday after he allegedly hacked his three sons to death.

Police said the killings came after the man, 43, accused his wife of infidelity and questioned the paternity of the children.

Tshilidzi Madou, 7, Thabo Madou, 6, and two-year-old Olugaho Madou, were hacked to death in their sleep.

The Star