Cape Town high school pupils demand action against gender-based violence

06 September 2019 - 17:34 By Dan Meyer
Students gathered outside to hand over a memorandum on gender-based violence to Claremont police station commander Maree Louw
Students gathered outside to hand over a memorandum on gender-based violence to Claremont police station commander Maree Louw
Image: Dan Meyer

Cape Town high school pupils on Friday joined in the nationwide call for gender-based violence to be rooted out of South African society.

The pupils of Groote Schuur High School in Newlands protested at the Claremont police station, and placed a memorandum directly in the officers' hands. The memorandum, which has been signed by 1,081 people from Groote Schuur, Claremont and Livingstone high schools, demanded that the police provide better protection to women and children.

The demands included:

  • An increase in police presence and visibility around schools in the area and en route to the bus terminus and train station before and after school;
  • Presentation of self-defence workshops to pupils and staff of neighbourhood schools;
  • Improved response time when a crime is reported;
  • Increased diligence of police officers to help ensure victims do not suffer twice;
  • That justice be served;
  • Increased patrols after hours for pupils who engage in extra-mural school programmes;
  • The installation of community surveillance systems around schools;
  • The presence of police officers at public transport hubs; and
  • Properly trained personnel and proper care facilities for trauma victims.

After handing over the memorandum to Claremont police station commander Col Maree Louw, the students asked some hard-hitting questions.

"You are nowhere to be found," said one student. "We are dying, and you are never there." 

Referring to the location where 19-year-old university student Uyinene Mrwetyana was murdered, the student pointed and said: "It happened literally a minute away, but you weren't there."

She was pointing at the Clareinch post office, less than 100m away. Hundreds of letters of condolence and anger have been left at the building following Mrwetyana's rape and murder.

Louw said police "could only do so much without being able to go behind locked doors" - and said that they would do whatever they could to ensure that change was seen to be done.

"These demands won't go unattended. We will send this to our provincial office and demand more police like you ask for in the memorandum," she said.

"We are sick and tired of picking up bodies of females."

At the assembly held at the school beforehand, students spoke out against rape culture and called on their male peers to do more to help stem the violence.

"Men who rape are psychotic and their behaviour is not tolerated under any circumstances," said Safaa Reddy. "They too have sisters and mothers, and they wouldn't like it if that happened to them. so why do they have the audacity to force themselves on innocent females?"

Rory Samuels added: "Men who joke about rape, you are responsible for desensitising people to something that doesn't belong in society. The men need to start owning up and looking out for our women. We need them, and we need to protect them. 

"I wonder why we take from our women, and rape our women. Do we hate our women?" 

hundreds of messages and flowers have been laid outside the post office where Uyinene Mrwetyana was killed.
hundreds of messages and flowers have been laid outside the post office where Uyinene Mrwetyana was killed.
Image: Dan Meyer

Matthew Knoll lambasted his male peers, saying that men had "failed".

"Yesterday [Thursday], a friend of mine was asked why she should answer the question 'why were you raped?' I thought to myself, 'why should she be afraid of people like her father, her uncle, her brother, people she thought she should look to for help? 

"We have failed simply by allowing this to happen'. Not raping and abusing women doesn't make you a great man, it makes you normal. I say 'men are trash' because we have let our mothers, aunties and sisters down by not protecting them.  

"I would call this animal behaviour, but there isn't one god-given animal on earth that would do something so barbaric and horrible."


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