PICS | Tears flow as Uyinene Mrwetyana is remembered one year on with ribbons and flowers

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  • Capetonians tied ribbons, flowers and signs to the railing of the Clareinch Post Office in memory of Uyinene Mrwetyana.
  • Uyinene was murdered one year ago inside the building by Post Office employee Luyanda Botha - now serving life in prison.
  • The police team, who worked on the case, held a memorial outside the building, and struggled to hold back the tears.

It has been a year since Uyinene Mrwetyana was murdered at the Clareinch Post Office in Cape Town - but the tears have not dried, as hundreds of ribbons and bouquets of flowers line the building where she lost her life.

Station commander of the Claremont police station Colonel Maree Louw choked up at an impromptu memorial service for Uyinene, as she remembered not only her own sister who was murdered, but all the murders of women she has worked on.

People silently brought flowers and took a few minutes to remember the student, who was one of many women and girls murdered last year.

READ | Uyinene's family suing SA Post Office

"She was my sister," said Sergeant Siyabulela Tsule near the flowers and fluttering ribbons brought to the Clareinch Post Office to honour Uyinene, who was murdered there a year ago.

"We may not have the same mothers or come from the same family, but she was my sister. She should have been protected," he said, trailing off.

As one of the detectives on the case, he had come to pay his respects and gently rubbed the arm of station commander Louw to comfort her as she wiped away tears of grief - not just for Uyinene, but for other victims of horrific murders, including her own sister. 

Louw was stationed in Bredasdorp when Anene Booysen was brutally raped and left to die. 

Anene managed to say a name before she died - and Johannes Kana, who now wants his case reopened, was put behind bars for life.

"Personally, I lost family and friends due to gender-based violence," said Louw.

"My sister was killed by a man," she said, her voice cracking as she wiped away tears.

"It makes me upset in the sense that this needs to stop," she said.

"There needs to be more done, and nobody seems to know what. The perpetrators are not scared of harsher sentences, so I think the death penalty must come in," she said, when asked for her personal opinion on what is needed to stop gender-based violence.

Uyinene Mrwetyana, Post Office
Flowers, ribbons and signs line the Clareinch Post Office in Cape Town where student Uyinene Mrwetyana was murdered one year ago.
News24
Uyinene Mrwetyana, Post Office
Flowers, ribbons and signs line the Clareinch Post Office in Cape Town where student Uyinene Mrwetyana was murdered one year ago.
News24
Uyinene Mrwetyana
Flowers and ribbons to mark a year since UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana was murdered
News24 Jenni Evans
Uyinene Mrwetyana, Post Office
Flowers, ribbons and signs line the Clareinch Post Office in Cape Town where student Uyinene Mrwetyana was murdered one year ago.
News24

Sergeant Lutchmee Chetty, who said she found Uyinene's body, said it was a very emotional time.

"This year, we can find peace of mind as he is behind bars," she said.

Guilty

Post Office employee Luyanda Botha pleaded guilty to murdering the student after telling her there was a parcel waiting for her. He pretended to be doing her a favour by opening the post office after hours, but when she rejected his sexual advances, he beat her, strangled her, left her body in a safe, and then set her body alight.

Her family has sought solace by establishing the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation to help protect women and prevent further attacks.

The foundation is expected to host a webinar on the topic on Monday. They are also suing the Post Office because Botha had a criminal record when he was hired.

Botha was handed a life sentence for her murder, two life sentences for rape, and a five-year sentence for defeating the course of justice.

READ | Luyanda Botha handed 3 life terms for raping, killing Uyinene Mrwetyana

He will not be eligible for parole for 25 years. 

The 19-year-old UCT student was not the only victim, with others, such as theology student Jessie Hess and her grandfather Chris Lategan, triggering country-wide pickets and protests. 

Uyinene Mrwetyana (Instagram)
Uyinene Mrwetyana.

Post Office manager Kim Williams told News24 she had been the victim of a robbery in the week Uyinene was murdered, and was so distraught by the two events that she became physically ill.

The previous manager of the Post Office resigned - and, when Williams took up the post, she was afraid.

Horrified

"I was horrified. I was scared. I thought, is it safe to come?"

When she started work, she asked her new colleagues what Botha had been like.

"They said they were so shocked. They couldn't believe it. They had to go for counselling afterwards.

"They said, 'Kim, he used to read the Bible every day'."

She said that, to cope, the staff have prayer sessions and think of the things that women go through.

"I send my heart's warmest condolences for her and her parents," said Williams.

While the ribbons fluttered, and the railing and stoep filled up with bouquets and written tributes, a woman tying flowers to the rail said: "This could have been my daughter," and started crying.

Agape Tadana slowly tied white pieces of fabric, with a silver border, around the photographs of Uyinene.

"I feel like we need to dig deep as men," said Tadana, who is a leader in an initiative where men gather to hear women share their stories of gender-based violence, without interruption or discussion.

"And [we need to] reflect on what needs to be done," he said.

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