By STEVEN LANG
Close to a hundred people dressed in black converged on Church Square on Tuesday evening for a candlelight vigil to honour the memory of Nosicelo Mtebeni. The Fort Hare law student was brutally murdered and butchered in Quigney, East London, last Thursday.
Most of those at the vigil were either students or staff of the Eastcape Midlands College (EMC).
Reverend Lithemba Busakwe, the student liaison officer of the EMC, coordinated the vigil with support from both taxi organisations in Makhanda, UNCEDO and BATA.
Part of the reason the taxi organisations were chosen to participate is that they are both male-dominated, and the organisers felt that they can be effective in driving home the message that gender-based violence (GBV) must stop immediately.
The horrific murder of Mtebeni has brought back the sense of horror felt on August 24, 2019, when former Kingwood College learner and University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and murdered inside a Post Office in Claremont, Cape Town.
Speakers at the vigil included Bishop Samuel Banzana, Siyabonga Jam, Parliamentary Constituency Officer, Rhodes lecturer Ziyanda Ntlokwana and Makana Mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa. They used their time at the podium to condemn the barbaric GBV that afflicts this country.
Ntlokwana spoke vehemently against gender-based violence which she blamed on the society we live in. “People say that the murder of Nosicelo happened because one individual is mentally disturbed – but that is not the case. It happened because society has allowed men to think of women as their possessions. They say that ‘we should protect our women, our mothers, our sisters and our daughters’.”
She said that “as a woman in South Africa, even before eCovid came, [there was]a pandemic against us women perpetrated by ‘madoda’”.
Ntlokwana warned the women on Church Square that they are not safe and they should look out for the signs that their boyfriends could turn violent.
She reminded them that Nosicelo’s boyfriend had accused her of cheating and then his demented jealousy led to murder. Ntlokwana said that the first time they accuse you of cheating – you should leave straight away.
A visibly moved Makana Mayor, Mzukisi Mpahlwa, said that exactly three years ago we were mourning the death of Uyinene Mrwetyana who was murdered under terrible circumstances in Cape Town.
He said, “Never had I thought in my own lifetime when we struggled for the liberation of this country that there would be a time when our children would be brutalised in the manner that they are.”
The Mayor made a commitment to the women of Makana. “I am here today to be with you to say that on our part we will do everything to make sure that you are safe.”
He then appealed to gathering to unite against GBV, “We must make sure, all of us, that this pandemic, this gender-based violence must come to an end.”
Mpahlwa was reassuring on one hand, but on the other, he reserved his anger for the men who perpetrated violent crimes, “What kind of animal is that? It is my wish that these criminals must rot in jail. They must never come out again. He does not deserve to be with us.”
Suddenly, in the middle of the solemn speeches, women began screaming and running in all directions. A dishevelled young man who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs charged into the middle of the vigil and began shouting at some ghosts that he was seeing.
After about fifteen seconds of chaos, the Reverend Busakwe stepped into the centre and took charge. He calmed everyone down and told the crowd that the intruder was not a vagrant but a poet who had a message to deliver.
The poet was Siphosethu Nongena a student at Lovedale TVET College, and his message was that to tell the men present that bad behaviour would lead them nowhere but to jail.
The dramatic bit of street theatre clearly showed how on edge the local women are. They reacted with frightening speed shrieking and running as quickly as they could. Gender-based violence has caused women in our society to be always alert and expecting the worst.
The vigil ended as all those present on the Church Square lit their candles and thought about Nosicelo.