IN THEIR OWN WORDS | 'We are not okay without you': Uyinene Mrwetyana's family speaks out

15 November 2019 - 15:20 By Philani Nombembe
Uyinene's uncle, Vuyani Mrwetyana, talks to Cape Town councillor Patrick Mngxunyeni outside the high court in Cape Town following Luyanda Botha's sentencing.
Uyinene's uncle, Vuyani Mrwetyana, talks to Cape Town councillor Patrick Mngxunyeni outside the high court in Cape Town following Luyanda Botha's sentencing.
Image: Philani Nombembe

Your death will not be in vain.

This was the pledge from the family of Uyinene Mrwetyana, who issued a heartbreaking statement to the Cape Town high court during the sentencing of the UCT student's rapist and murderer, Luyanda Botha, on Friday.

The family said her death was a turning point in the fight against gender-based violence in South Africa.

In an emotive statement read in the high court in Cape Town, the family said her death had robbed the family of its privacy.

TimesLIVE publishes the statement, unedited, below:

"My Lord, the 24th August 2019 marks the first day of a redefined version of our family. The day started out like any other. As it progressed, upon the realisation that Uyiuyi could not be reached, our worst fears crept in and that initial trepidation has since developed into an ocean of emotions, which have coalesced into agony.

"This day also marked a turning point after which privacy for the family became a rare privilege. We have since, directly or indirectly, been in the national and international spotlight because of the catastrophic loss of our precious daughter, Uyinene.

"Our once quiet and private daily lives are now watched with sorrow and pity. While the country and the world at large show us immense love and support that we sincerely appreciate, we are always drawn back to the moment in time when this catastrophic tragedy befell us.

Uyinene's mother, Noma Mrwetyana, inside the high court in Cape Town after Luyanda Botha was handed three life sentences.
Uyinene's mother, Noma Mrwetyana, inside the high court in Cape Town after Luyanda Botha was handed three life sentences.
Image: Philani Nombembe

"We were a small family of four; two men and two women. This diversity in our family presented multiple thoughts and generational opinions that would emerge at every dinner table discussion, phone call and so on.

"The sudden annihilation of our princess has emphatically altered our collective being as her voice (which was distinct, crisp and filled with warmth and affection), is now gone. She has left an everlasting void.

"Her father is gutted and deeply saddened that he could not even view her body due to how badly damaged it was from the despicable act committed by the accused. He is left with an eternally open wound, which has made it difficult to reconcile with this tragedy.

"Esona, her brother, is devastated that his younger sister, whom he cherished so much, went through this horrible experience and had her life cut short in this manner. He has been left a loner, as his biggest cheerleader and adviser is no more.

"They had so much hope for the future, including times when they would be parents themselves. All those dreams and future ideals have been unceremoniously stolen away from both Esona and Uyinene. What a loss.     

"I, on the other hand, as Esona and Uyinene’s mother, as well as their father’s wife, have the gigantic and Godly responsibility of safeguarding the wellbeing of my family.

"The intense trauma from the loss of my daughter is a daily burden that is excruciatingly hard to bear. She had become my 'call a friend' when I needed to chat; my loudspeaker when I could not fully express myself; my pacemaker. She had become me. No words can fully describe my hurt, let alone that of my entire family.

"We invested a lot in Uyiuyi as we had first-hand understanding of her dreams and all that she wished to achieve with her life. We did so enthusiastically as she was such a pleasant young lady with every right to believe the world was her oyster. She had hopes and dreams of conquering the local and international scenes in the media and film industry. Boy oh boy! A naturally talented child; a dream deferred indeed. How is she to achieve those plans now?

"We are hopeful that Nene’s murder is not in vain. We look beyond our loss as her death awakened a movement in South Africa and the world over. It is fact though, that every day we are reminded we are the biggest losers.

"We remember your beautiful, deep, husky voice with pleasure and imagine the voice when you bravely fought your perpetrator, denouncing the ill and evil he put you through. We have sleepless nights imagining the fear of being faced with a monster who presented himself to you as a trusted civil servant in a place that is viewed as a national asset to service the community.

"We are stuck with the question: Why, why, why? Was it really necessary?

"The trauma is totally unbearable but we will not allow the end to define you, Uyinene. We constantly feel the hurt concealed beneath a veneer of coping and surviving. Our hearts continue to bleed for you. We pray for your soul and we are holding on to the joyous memories and life experiences we had together.

"The foundation and scholarship in your honour will help us further your great deeds and we shall impact young lives who will go on to spread the love to the world over.

"We have full confidence in the justice system of our country.

"We are not okay without you Bhelekazi. We cannot be. Your friends who have become family are not okay, Nene. The women of this country are not okay. Young girls are not okay. We are a bleeding country. It is painful, a pain no parent should ever go through!"


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