This story was previously published in a September 2019 issue of Drum's print edition.
She seemed to be an ordinary teenager, posting pictures of herself with friends on social media, heading out for socialising between classes and enjoying everything life had to offer.
Then came the day she united the nation and spurred the president into action on certain laws –and suddenly here was nothing ordinary about her. But as anyone who knew Uyinene Mrwetyana well would tell you, she’s actually always been extraordinary.
Here some of the University of Cape Town student’s friends share their thoughts about this young woman, who brutally lost her life at the age of 19.
Caitlyn met Uyinene in Grade1 at Hudson Park Primary School in East London. “We literally met on that ?rst day and we hit it o?,” she tells DRUM.
“Uyi, where do I even begin? The ?rst day of Grade 1, I had just walked into the class, a nervous wreck. I was frightened and just wanted to go home and as I turned around, I walked into you. “You introduced yourself to me and I did the same. Your name was a bit tricky at ?rst. Uyinini, Unini, Uyinens, Nene. I just couldn’t get the hang of it. Every time I would say it wrong you would just look at me with your infectious smile and just shake your head.
“Our relationship grew into a sisterhood. You always stood up for me, you always knew how to cheer me up and there wasn’t a day that went by when you didn’t make me smile. “I remember our week-long sleepovers, getting into trouble for painting our nails, getting told to run around the tennis court because of our constant chatter and laughter, eating gourmet meals at lunchtime, braiding each other’s hair and just being by each other’s side 24/7.
“UyiUyi, you were the most outgoing, love able, fashionista I have ever met. You have touched so many lives in just 19 years on this Earth and you continue to touch millions more in your absence. You have taught me to always stand up for what I believe in and to stay true to myself. You have taught me that being a woman is more than just your physical appearance. It’s how you carry yourself, your behaviour, attitude, and your outlook on life.
“Thank you for being the person I shared 12 years of my life with. Thank you for being my person. I wish I had one more moment just to tell you how much you truly mean to me. “One more moment to tell you how much I love and adore you. One more moment just to give you one last hug. One more moment to see that radiant smile–just one last time. One more moment to look into your eyes and tell you how honoured I am that you chose me to be your best friend.
“Your legacy will live on. You were part of a greater plan that none of us realised at the time. We now see why the Lord put you on this Earth– to make a di?erence in our country. “Losing you is like losing apart of myself. You were my best friend, my sister, my comforter, my everything. You had my back when no one else did. Thank you for your constant support and laughter. You’ll always be a part of me. “Radical transformation is already happening in South Africa because of you. Your legacy will live on. I love you, Uyi, forever and always.
SINO NORMAN, ROOMMATE
Snothile, who went to high school at Kingswood College in Grahamstown with Uyinene and became her roommate at UCT, shared this message on Instagram.
“I’m writing this during a sleepover with some of our closest friends. We’re distracting ourselves with movies and music but there’s a wavering scent of sadness in the room. “You’re meant to be here. You’re meant to be a part of the banter and the singalongs but you’re not. There is[a] soul missing, and I can feel the emptiness. This pain is indescribable, it’s heavy, it’s terrible and it’s so great that it holds me down when I sleep and wakes me up in the morning. “I’m too young to bury a friend, and you are too young to be buried.
“Uyinene, I miss you. If I had known that that was the last time I was going to see you I would have said so much more, Uyi. “I would have told you about how much I appreciated the nights in my room where we’d speak until 3am even though we had school in the morning. “I would tell you that your smile was my favourite thing about you. I would tell you that you’re one of the bravest and strongest people I know. “I would tell you that our foolish dance battles and o?-key duets were one of the many memories that I made with you that got me through high school. I would tell you that sharing playlists was the purest form of communication with you. “I would tell you that I love you and that your impact on me and other people was greater than you’ll ever know.
Uyinene, I love you. “You are one of my best friends and you always will be. Even when we fought, we would always come back to each other. You were an attachment and I know that I was yours. You and I know things about each other that no one else will ever know. “We hold inside jokes that no one else will ever understand. We’ve made memories that no other person will be able to replace. We have a bond that nothing can break. Uyinene, you will always be a part of me. “I will love you forever until we meet again. I don’t even have to say that I will never forget you because you are impossible to forget. “Wherever I go, wherever I am, from strength to strength or when I am weak, you will be there.
You were an angel in the ?esh and now you’re an angel in the heavens and they are lucky to be blessed by your presence. “Uyinene Mrwetyana,you are my guardian angel.
Mbasa, one of her friends at UCT, says their connection was “instant and our friendship so e?ortless”.
“My dear NeyNey, I could tell you anything knowing that it would stay with you. You made me feel whole. I even hate thinking that you are gone because my heart becomes heavier. I can feel that a piece of me is missing.
“We shared our dreams and aspirations and knowing I may be able to accomplish them and you won’t hurts the most. We were supposed to navigate life together. I’m going to miss sending pictures of clothes to you, making weird noises in public without the care of anyone listening, dancing with you, nearly shedding tears at the sight of a cute guy.
“I’ll miss our conversations we thought would last 10 minutes but lasted for hours. I miss you, Nene, so much it hurts. “You shouldn’t have had to die for people to ?nally listen to what you had been preaching. “I thought I knew what heartbreak was. I didn’t up until now. I love you much, my friend. You are forever imprinted on my heart.”