After brutal killings of South African women over the past two weeks, #stopkillingwomen is trending on social media and helping bring South Africa’s cases of gender-based violence to the surface. Some believe “frustration and anxiety caused by the Covid-19 lockdown increased violent attacks in South African households”. Social workers also think the June 1st lifting of a nine-week ban on alcohol sales contributed to the surge in domestic violence.
The pandemic aside, according to the 102-page National Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Strategic Plan still in draft form, more than 52,000 sexual offenses and 42,000 rapes were reported to the South African police between 2017 and 2019.
South Africa isn’t alone. Domestic violence is also rising in Mexico, US, Colombia, Chile, UK, Argentina, and worldwide. Escalating BLM protests, civil and political unrest, riots, police reform, and social media outrage are rampant, but femicide is especially heartbreaking, and the South African government has declared gender-based violence a “national crisis”. During a 2019 event, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed discussed the tragedy of “rising femicide with the proportion of women killed growing, while overall murder rates fall”.
What is Femicide?
Unbelievably, a News24 article said “definitions of femicide vary,” and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime – UNODC – concludes “there’s no commonly agreed definition of what constitutes femicide”. In their report on gender-related killing of women and girls, the UNODC added, “conventional understanding conveys the idea that hate crimes against women are perpetrated by men simply because of the gender roles assigned to women”. A similar definition is used by South Africa’s statistical agency, Stats SA, defining femicide as “the intentional killing of females just because they are females”.
South African Police Service breakdowns of murder victims by age, group, and sex sadly show that “a woman is murdered every three hours in South Africa”. Murder statistics from the World Health Organization’s global database indicate that “12.5 per 100,000 women in South Africa are murdered”. The figure is “4.8 times the global average of 2.6”. Out of 183 countries listed by the WHO, South Africa had the fourth highest female violence death rate. In 2018, according to the South African Human Rights Commission, femicide increased by 117 percent!
SA Government Plan to End Violence Against Women
The process of developing a Femicide Prevention Strategy in South Africa has been slow. In September 2019, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the country’s crisis of violence against women. He promised a “plan of action”. Protesters called for the death penalty for perpetrators, while Ramaphosa proposed making offenders register in public. He claimed laws would be reviewed in parliament and promised “11 new courts, a review of cold cases, and harsher penalties for perpetrators”.
On June 15, 2020, President Ramaphosa made another statement describing the killings of several women as “shocking acts of inhumanity” during a “dark and shameful week for South Africa”. He said, “We must strengthen our justice system to ensure that perpetrators are brought to book, tighten bail and parole conditions, and make certain those sentenced to life actually spend the rest of their lives behind bars”. Ramaphosa called on all South Africans to “end the culture of silence around gender-based violence and report perpetrators”.
Femicide Victim Uyinene Mrwetyana
Recent murders brought back painful memories of the August 2019 rape and murder of 19-year-old South African University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana.
Ramaphosa called on all South Africans to “end the culture of silence around gender-based violence and report perpetrators”.
“Uyinene Mrwetyana was last seen leaving her university residence in Claremont on 24 August. Her murderer, Luyanda Botha, admitted to raping her before bludgeoning her to death at his place of work – Clareinch Post Office. Botha left her body in the Post Office safe overnight, collected it the following day, and set it alight at a field in Lingelethu, Khayelitsha. He was sentenced to life for murder and given 2 additional life sentences on 2 counts of rape. He also received 5 years for defeating the course of justice and will not be eligible for parole for 25 years.”
After Mrwetyana’s brutal murder, “Ramaphosa vowed to develop a national strategy to fight the scourge. He established a $355 million fund over the next five years to help deal with sex offenses and other forms of violence against women”.
“We are going to overhaul and modernize the national register of gender-based violence offenders provided for in the Sexual Offences Act, to ensure it’s effective in combating gender-based violence.” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa September 2019
Charlize Theron has spoken up on “the violence perpetuated against South African women”. She made this video in 1999, over 20 years ago. Tragically, not much has changed since then. Rape and femicide remain an “epidemic in South Africa“.
June 2020 South African Femicide Victims
Sibongiseni Gabada’s dismembered body was found stuffed into a bag that was left next to a shack in Khayelitsha on May 29. Police arrested her ex-boyfriend as the alleged murderer.
Ms. Nompumelelo Tshaka‘s body was found dumped in a field in Mthatha by a passerby on June 5. Her alleged murderer, Ayanda Zenani, was arrested and appeared in court. He’s scheduled to reappear for a formal bail application.
Naledi Phangindawo was hacked to death with an axe on June 6 while attending a cultural function in KwaNonqaba Township in Mossel Bay. A 34-year-old man confessed to her murder and surrendered to the police. Her gruesome death has “taken a heavy toll on the health of her aging parents”. She leaves behind three children aged two, four, and six.
“The manner in which these defenseless women were killed points to an unconscionable level of barbarism and lack of humanity”. Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s President
On June 8 after vanishing from her home, Tshegofatso Pule was found near Florida Lake in Roodeport, a suburb of Johannesburg, hanging from a tree with stab wounds in her chest. She was eight months pregnant.
According to the police, on June 9 an unidentified woman was murdered and her body dumped under a tree in an open veld in Dobsonville Township in Soweto. It’s estimated the victim was in her early thirties. After the police appealed to the public for information, the victim was later identified as Sanele Mfaba. Her boyfriend, Tshepo Mashego, is suspected of the murder.
Altecia and Raynecia Kortjie
On June 10, Altecia Kortje, a 27-year-old woman, and her 7-year-old daughter, Raynecia, were discovered in a gruesome scene inside a house in Belhar Cape Flats, Western Cape. “The 27-year-old female had multiple stab wounds to her body, while the child was found dead on the bathroom floor”. A suspect known to the victims was arrested by the police.
On June 14, the decomposing body of Nwabisa Mgwandela was found by commuters in a big red bag off Golden Highway in Johannesburg, next to the BP garage in Freedom Park. “Upon inspection of the decomposed corpse, officers noted that the victim’s hands and legs were tied with rope from behind, but she had no visible wounds.”
To draw attention to violence against women, a list of more than 400 women who were killed at the hands of men, mainly their partners, went viral on social media. Ordinary people and gender organizations have also accused the South African government of a lack of political will to deal with the problem.
2019 South African Femicide Victims
An article in Eyewitness News (EWN) lists a mere handful of femicide cases in South Africa that made headlines in 2019. The age of each victim is shown in parentheses.
Gomolemo Legae (18)
Murdered on 1 December while walking home, Gomolemo Legae was allegedly stabbed several times, before being doused with petrol and set alight. She later succumbed to her injuries in the hospital. Before she died, she managed to scream for help, and told those who came to her aid the name of the perpetrator. A 19-year-old man is in police custody for her murder.
Leighandre “Baby Lee” Jegels (25)
While commuting with her mother in East London on 30 August, the South African boxer and karate champion, Leighandre Jegels, was shot multiple times by her police officer boyfriend, Bulelani Mnyaka. He allegedly killed Jegels with a service pistol and died in the hospital from injuries sustained in a car crash while fleeing.
Precious Ramabulana (21)
Capricorn TVET College student Precious Ramabulana was found dead in her room off-campus on 24 November. She had been stabbed 52 times. It’s suspected that she was raped before she was killed. Aubrey Manaka was arrested, and police said he was found in possession of the victim’s phone. Manaka was charged with three counts of rape, murder, and robbery.
Many of the female victims are brutally assaulted and raped before being murdered. In many cases, their bodies are disposed of in the bush, shallow graves, or burned beyond recognition.
Nthabiseng Rampai (22)
The body of 22-year-old Nthabiseng Rampai was found in her bedroom in Welkom, in the Free State, on the weekend of 7 December. The perpetrator is understood to have waited for her father to leave, then went in and raped and killed her. No one has been arrested for her murder.
Kgaugelo Tshawane (28)
Kgaugelo Tshawane was allegedly murdered by her boyfriend, Tebogo Setlhare. Her body was found on 24 November in Mapetla Section, Mmakau, in the North West. Setlhare burnt her body inside her Mini Cooper. When he was later arrested, police found her bank card in his possession, from which he had allegedly withdrawn R1 000. He is yet to be found guilty. Setlhare is facing charges of kidnapping, robbery, murder, defeating ends of justice, and possessing suspected stolen property.
Aviwe Wellem (21)
Matriculant Aviwe Wellem was found on 4 August – raped and stabbed to death in her bed in Dutywa, Eastern Cape. It’s understood a knife was also found at the scene, and her TV was dumped in a nearby field. Her killer(s) are yet to be apprehended. As South Africa mourned the horrific murder of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana, only a few village people knew that on Saturday morning, Aviwe Wellem’s dead body was found by two boys.
Meghan Cremer (30)
The body of showjumper Meghan Cremer was found at a sand mine in Philippi Township in August. Her hands were bound, and she had a restraint around her neck. Shiraaz Jaftha, Jeremy Sias, and Charles Daniels were arrested shortly after her body was found, and they were in possession of her car. Sias faces charges of murder, defeating the ends of justice, armed robbery, and theft of a motor vehicle. Daniels and Japftha face charges of vehicle theft and defeating the ends of justice.
Nhlanhla Prudence Mphahlele (43)
The 43-year-old mother of 2, Nhlanhla Prudence Mphahlele, was strangled to death by her husband in her home in Parkrand, Boksburg on November 17. The husband, Mzwandile Mphahlele, was later arrested and charged with her murder – he allegedly claimed that Mphahlele drowned in a bathtub and was granted R10 000 (± $600) bail.
Jesse Hess (19)
Jesse Hess, a University of the Western Cape theology student, and her grandfather, Chris Lategan, were found murdered at their Parow, Cape Town flat on 30 August. She was found naked on her bed, and it’s believed they were both strangled. Almost two months after her murder, the family revealed that Hess’s cousin was arrested in Struisbaai near Hermanus in connection with the case. His case is still before the courts. He is yet to be convicted.