“Being a woman or child is not a sin.”
This was the watchword of the day, while a procession of about 100 supporters and schoolchildren gathered to march against the scourge of children and women abuse. They met at various points between the start at the Joza Post Office and the Cathedral, before ending up at the Magistrate’s Court to hand over a memorandum. The organisers were Patricia May, Sandiswa May and Nozukile Stof and activist Sinethemba Mhlambiso.
Word was spread by Mhlambiso and other activists up until last night, driving in a bakkie with a megaphone all around Grahamstown to urge solidarity. An organisation called Voices of Women of Africa was part of the march and provided red armbands to marchers to symbolise the urgency of the cause. They formed a red line on the streets, with the assistance of SAPS to escort them.
The march grew as it moved through the township, with flocks of singing schoolchildren carrying posters all the way to outside the Cathedral for a prayer led by the Episcopalean Church’s Reverend Thobile Kleinbooi and the church’s Bishop Khaya Mcekana. Outside the Cathedral, the words of the Mayor, Nomhle Gaga, were stronger than the wind.
“I want to urge my fellow parents and teachers, let us talk to and educate our children on how to deal with each other. Let us put a special focus on little boys on how they should treat a woman and child the right way. Because unfortunately, they are the ones who usually grow into agressors and abusive men instead of protectors,” Gaga said.
These strong words fuelled the marchers to their final destination, the Magistrate’s Court, further along High Street. The marchers stood outside while the leaders addressed them from the steps.
Court manager Mncedisi Mbete came outside to meet the group and Mhlambiso handed him a memorandum whose demands included no bail for perpetrators of abuse and harrassment, for parole provisions to be reviewed, and for there to be severe consequences for violence against women and children.
They also said there needed to be a focus on protection orders and urgent handling of stalking incidents as well as domestic violence. For the serious offence of homicide, they requested life sentence provisions to be reviewed.