AM I NEXT? The story of Uyinene

Image credit: Courts Molony (IG @Callmecourts)

I imagine that Uyinene had plans for that day. That she couldn’t wait to receive her parcel and get started on that assignment that was due or try out the lunch special everyone had been raving about at cocoa-cocoa wah-wah. I imagine she had had her day planned out to the tee and dying in a post office was not on the list.

I remember when I first saw Uyinene’s face. She was smiling and just above her picture, the 150 characters said “Our friend has been missing since… Please RT… any information... #Uyinene”. For days everyone retweeted and shared, her friends relentlessly spread awareness about her disappearance getting celebrities to assist and helping to put up posters in their desperate search for Uyinene Mrwetyana.

In the days leading up to the acused's confession, it had felt as if the whole nation had a personal connection to Uyinene and we all wanted to receive news that she had been found safely, un-harmed or that everything was just one big miscommunication. But no one could have been prepared for the confession that sparked a national outcry against GBV.

I’m sorry I warned you about everything but the post office” – Uyinene’s mother

19-year-old Uyinene was raped at a post office right next to a police station. She was knocked unconscious using scales that, to me, represent the justice system that continues to fail women who have been victims of GBV on a daily basis and her body, violated by an unassuming post office worker who had told her to come back an hour later so that he could assist her with her parcel. Her story speaks volumes well beyond her resting place.

Thousands of women marched, held and continue to hold protests against GBV. On the 5th of September, women demanded to have their voices heard, the death penalty to come back and for something to be done about the increasing femicide rates in South Africa. Our cries were met with a pre-recorded video we were told would be given “live” and declaration that the list of offenders would be made public.

This simply isn’t enough.

This story has many layers. Women are not safe if running a simple errand by going to the post office gets you raped and killed. When babies as little as 6 months old are getting raped it clearly isn’t about what we wear. It’s not about the place, the clothes, the sexuality or provocation. The problem lies with the men in this country. The way they view women, patriarchy and the way their fathers treat their mothers – toxic masculinity.

The problem lies with the men in parliament who turn a blind eye to the incompetence of police officers on rape and murder cases, police officers who are bribed by perpetrators and victimise the victims who report these cases. The very same men in parliament who have been accused of rape and abuse.

What is jail time when a prisoner experiences the luxuries of life within their confined cells while their unfortunate victims lie 6 feet underground and their families are left grieving the lives they never got to live?

As I conclude this article I have not been at peace. I feel helpless and I want to make a difference. I could not march due to obligations at work and I had sat the whole day retweeting tweets, wishing I could’ve been there with my fellow sisters. Something needs to be done and right now, I don’t even know where to begin but I want to make a difference in any way that I can. And I urge you to start thinking as an individual how you can make a difference and how you can contribute to the #AmINext movement to fight for our sisters who have not yet received justice for the crimes committed against them and to support other movements that are fighting for the same cause. Participate in any activities that are for this movement including the #WithoutUs. We need to continuously take a stand against GBV before any real change can happen. Our efforts will not be in vain.

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