#AmINext: Protesters Rally For 19-Year-Old South African Girl Raped & Murdered In Post Office
A trip to the post office turned deadly for 19-year-old Uyinene Mrwetyana. On August 24 the University of Cape Town student was raped and murdered inside of the Clareinch Post Office in Claremont by Luyanda Botha, a 42-year-old employee.
Botha reportedly told Uyinene the credit card machine wasn’t working due to a power outage, a common occurrence in South Africa. He advised her to come back with a promise of helping her at a later time. When she returned after 2 p.m., the rest of the staff had left for the day.
But that afternoon, Uyinene would never return home.
Botha then locked the door and proceeded to raped her. When Uyinene wouldn’t stop screaming he beat her to death with post office scales. He then folded her body into the trunk of his car and set it on fire.
In response, the South African Post Office has suspended two senior officials, along with dismissing Botha from his position, according to Sowetan Live. An investigation by The Sunday Times revealed Botha’s name was included among a list of “300 employees who failed a vetting process last year as they were involved in crimes including theft, sexual harassment, domestic violence and assault.” Reportedly senior officials were aware of this, but ignored the designation.
An alleged former victim of Botha’s took to Facebook to detail a horrific experience she had with Botha at the same post office.
Botha has since then confessed to the crime Al Jazeera reports, but Uyinene’s death is all-too familiar. According to data released by the South African Police Service, of the 20,336 people who were murdered in the year 2017-2018, 2,930 of the victims were women. Statistics show that a woman is murdered every three hours in South Africa.
It was Uyinene’s murder that sparked the movement #AmINext—both a question and a safe haven nestled in a hashtag where women shared their experiences of sexual assault and rape.
On September 4, University of Cape Town students and femicide protestors turned their pain on Twitter into action and took to the streets of South Africa to express their frustration. They gathered outside the Cape Town International Conference Centre where President Cyril Ramaphosa attended the first day of the World Economic Forum. Through chants and signs, they demanded justice and protection for women and girls because of Uyinene and other women who had met similar fates.
During rush hour students blocked several major roads in the city and what started as a peaceful protest turned into a clash with the South African Police Service. The protesters, a majority being women, were met with water cannons and stun guns and at least 10 people were arrested.
But the outrage and fight for Uyinene didn’t let up.
On September 13, 4,000 protestors overwhelmed the streets of Johannesburg. Women from different towns and generations wore all black in solidarity, sang songs from the apartheid era and wore shirts that read, #AmINext.
Like many communities of color, the people of Cape Town and in this case specifically the women, have a strained relationship with their police enforcement. However, this resentment doesn’t stem from police brutality but neglect rooted in sexism. The lack of protection, dismissal and oversight officers have demonstrated has resulted in the deaths of many women. When Thandi Ndlovu, a celebrated businesswoman, tried to report domestic abuse, she was turned away by the officers and encouraged to go home and solve things with her husband. The news of her abusive marriage broke only after Forbes honored the entrepreneur who died in a car crash. Leighandre Jegels, a boxing champion, reported her cop boyfriend, Bulelani Manyakama, to the police but they never took any action. She was later shot and killed by Manyakama.
The post office Uyinene was murdered in was across the street from the police station. Many question how such a violent and loud murder had gone unnoticed with officers so close. Some reports claim that the South African Police Service wasn’t responsible for solving Uyinene’s murder. Some claim it was a private investigator hired by her family that solved the case. However, police officials have taken credit.
Our mothers have warned us about many things, but midday trips to the post office were never one of them. Uyinene’s murder is part of a long tale as old as sexism itself. However, it’s important stories like hers are uplifted and shared through the lens of womanism and vulnerability. The goal is that one day the question, #AmINext won’t exist.