There have been many protests in the shadows of Louis Botha’s equestrian statue on the corners of Roeland and Plein streets over the years, but more often than not it involved weeks of mobilising and massive logistics to get people to move.
But, less than 24 hours after University of Cape Town Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng announced that the university would lead a picket outside Parliament, almost 3,000 gathered and by lunchtime the number had swelled even further when the protest moved to the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
“It is important that as a community we recognise this moment for what it is,” Phakeng announced late on Tuesday afternoon, suspending all academic activity on Wednesday. “A devastating incident of gender-based violence which is utterly unacceptable, shocking, criminal and should never, ever occur in our community or in our society. Sadly, it is a fact that sexual and gender-based violence is rampant and our Nene is just one of a long list of women and vulnerable and marginalised people who are brutalised daily. It is for this reason that we have initiated a gender-based violence campaign that says #JustNo to sexual and gender-based violence.
“Please use tomorrow (Wednesday) to mourn the loss of Nene, to signal our bereavement and grief, to rise against sexual and gender-based violence in our community and in our society,” she said, declaring it a “day of mourning and UCT activism”.
The posters displayed on Wednesday were angry and there were no holy cows. The crowd of mostly women was angry and not interested in hearing the promises of politicians.
Dressed in black, ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina made a valiant attempt early in the proceedings to make a speech of promises; however, the crowd wanted nothing of it and it was only when Phakeng was lifted to a flagpole in front of Parliament that the crowed quietened down to listen.
Police minister Bheki Cele had a tough job when he tried to make a short contribution from the same flagpole and was mostly booed.
On Wednesday, hundreds gathered outside Parliament. They stood there for Uyinene Mrwetyana, Jesse Hess, Leighhandre Jegels, Janika Mallo, Lynette Volschenk, Meghan Cremer, Anene Booysen, Baby Tshepang, Valencia Farmer, Eudy Simelane and many, many more.
Maybe, just maybe, when we look back, the Spring day of Wednesday 4 September 2019 will be marked as the day women said it was truly enough and that it will be the moment when a thousand flowers bloomed. MC
"If a man seeks from the good life anything beyond itself, it is not the good life he is seeking" ~ Plotinus