Teen holds brave, solo city protest

BRAVE STAND: Ongeziwe Taleni holds a solo protest against women in Berea, East London.

Ongeziwe Taleni staged a lone gender-based violence protest in East London on Thursday – a move to highlight the scourge of abuse against women and children that President Cyril Ramaphosa called a crisis.

For five hours the young woman, in Grade 11 at Academy High School, stood at the traffic circle in Pearce Street, Berea, carrying a placard that said “rape is murder”.

She had other placards with names of gender violence victims: “Remember Reeva [Steenkamp], Sindi [Manqele], Khwezi [Fezekile Kuzwayo], Khensani [Maseko].”

And while Ramaphosa told the nation from a state Women’s Day event in Paarl that South Africa had failed its women, about 1000km away, the lone 17-year-old’s message was equally powerful.

Moved by Rhodes University student leader Khensani Maseko’s tragic story, Taleni said she had to take a stand.

Maseko was buried in Johannesburg on Thursday. She committed suicide after filing a rape complaint in May.

“When I heard she would be buried today I thought that was more reason to protest today.

“She reported the case but she had to kill herself for Rhodes University to pay attention.

“I want to send a message to make people aware, especially the rapists, that when they violate a person in that way, a part of the victims die. That is why I say rape is murder. Rape cannot be swept under the carpet.”

“I want to send a message to make people aware, especially the rapists, that when they violate a person in that way, a part of the victims die. That is why I say rape is murder. Rape cannot be swept under the carpet.”

Masimanyane Women’s Rights International executive director Lesley-Ann Foster, who stopped and spoke with Taleni, said: “I was moved to tears by her protest. She was so courageous.

Speaking at Mbekweni in Paarl, Ramaphosa said the rise of gender-based violence was a crisis – and that a war was being waged against women in towns‚ cities‚ homes‚ schools‚ universities‚ streets‚ parks and open spaces.

“It is a war against women’s bodies‚ their dignity‚ their right to freedom‚ their right to security and equality. It is an affront to our common humanity and a betrayal to the values of our constitution.”

The president said poverty was a burden that women carry disproportionately.

“The face of poverty and suffering is still worn by the women of South Africa. They are neglected in the provision of government services and are overlooked by the business community,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the state would convene a national gender summit on August 31 in an attempt to find a solution.

In Barkly East, the DA Women’s Network (Dawn) commemorated Women’s Day by marching against gender-based violence in rural communities and called for the removal of Joe Gqabi district council speaker Themba Notyeke.

A video clip emerged in June of Notyeke attacking a woman at an event in Aliwal North and shoving her over a table.

“It is untenable that a person in his position gets away with treating a woman this way,” Dawn provincial chair Georgina Faldtman said.

Notyeke reduced the allegations to a political smear campaign, saying in the video he had been trying to break up a fight. “The march was part of the DA’s campaigning for 2019 elections. I am deployed by the ANC. The DA is not going to dictate the terms of my employment, the ANC will dictate what happens to me. But I did not attack any woman.”

Faldtman said numbers of unemployed women in rural communities had to give in to sexual favours in order to secure jobs.

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