Thousands take to Gugulethu's streets to march against gender-based violence

Rev Zamuxolo Mfihlo, Ludwe Nkomo (of Ilithalabantu) and Lwanda Mpondo, danced and sang as they joined thousands who marched in Gugulethu against gender-based violence on Thursday. (Mary-Anne Gontsana, GroundUp)
Rev Zamuxolo Mfihlo, Ludwe Nkomo (of Ilithalabantu) and Lwanda Mpondo, danced and sang as they joined thousands who marched in Gugulethu against gender-based violence on Thursday. (Mary-Anne Gontsana, GroundUp)

Thousands of residents marched against gender-based violence and Afrophobia in Gugulethu, Cape Town, on Thursday.

Traders packed up and shops closed in Gugulethu Mall in support of the #GugulethuShutdown march organised by the Gugulethu Development Forum (GDF).

The Movement for Change and Social Justice, Realistic, Ilitha Labantu, and Cape Flats Inter-faith Declaration Initiative were among the civil society organisations that joined the march.

A poster held up by members of Sonke Gender Justice commemorated the death of Phumeza Nkolonzi, a young lesbian who was shot in Nyanga in 2012.

Lwanda Mpondo, who works as a care support assistant at Intshukumo Secondary School, and who was part of the organising team, said: "The reason we are here today is to fight against violence and Afrophobia."

He added the community was "trying to come up with a strategic plan and unite everyone in Gugulethu to fight against gender-based violence and other social ills".

Noncendo Nomqa, who joined the march, said her daughter was raped and killed and her son was beaten to death, both in 2013, in Gugulethu.

"Till this day, six years … I do not even know who the investigating officer is or whether the deaths of my children were ever investigated. I decided to join the march today because I still feel that pain of six years ago. I want the police to do a better job," she said.

Tambo Village resident Xolisa Hlwempu said: "This is simple: When a woman says no, it means no. There are men among us who go out drinking in shebeens then come back home and victimise the women and children. These things happen at home. That is why we are urging women to make reporting such things to the police a norm.

"And we are also asking our police and justice system to work harder. We can't have perpetrators being arrested then released the following day and let back into the community."

Noel Timms, the general manager of a supermarket in the mall, said he supported the march. "It is time now as men to take a stand and say enough is enough. It starts with us, and until we fix ourselves as men, then nothing will come right."

The marchers sang "Our only crime is being born women" and "Hands off my vagina" as they wound their way up Steve Biko Drive to the Gugulethu police station, with pastors and bishops holding hands.

The marchers delivered a memorandum to Lieutenant Colonel Bertie Brink, addressed to the police, departments of justice, social development, community safety and City of Cape Town.

Their demands include that the police prioritise gender-based violence, set up a 24-hour gender-based violence helpline for survivors, as well as the police to increase their visibility at schools. The organisations also want the police to work closely with neighbourhood watches.

GDF deputy chairperson Mzwandile Panziso said they wanted a response from the government within 14 business days. "If we do not get a response, then we will not be responsible for what happens next. We will definitely shut Gugulethu down."

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