Dear colleagues and students
While August is Women’s Month in South Africa, it is often overshadowed by the unacceptably high levels of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). This scourge is an enormous challenge and remains a terrible reality in our society. The latest crime statistics released by the South African Police Service reveal the depth of this problem – on average, 856 women and 321 children were murdered over 107 days in 2018/19.
This scourge has also emerged as a distressing feature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the sharp rise in the number of SGBV reported cases during the lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa labelled this scourge as a second pandemic in the country. For many women and children, their homes have become dangerous places because they are locked down with their abusers with reduced access to help and support networks.
At UCT we are dealing with any SGBV cases through a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of sexual violence and/or sexual harassment. Important to highlight is that we are committed to following due process to conclusion, when a charge of sexual or gender-based violence is brought forward by a student or a staff member. In several cases UCT has taken action against students or staff members who have been found guilty of sexual or gender-based violence.
A year ago today, in the most horrific way, we lost our student Uyinene Mrwetyana to SGBV. This sparked a wave of outrage and pain not only at UCT but in South Africa and the rest of the world. Uyinene’s brutal rape and murder became one of a long list of women and vulnerable people who are violated daily
We had not even recovered from the Uyinene tragedy when just a few days ago, the higher education sector and the country was again devastated by the brutal murder of Wits University first-year student, Asithandile Zozo. We convey our heartfelt condolences to the Zozo family and stand in solidarity with the Wits community as we continue the fight against GBV.
On Monday, 24 August 2020, the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation will co-host with the Psychological Society of South Africa and the University of South Africa’s Masculinity & Health Research Unit a webinar in commemoration of the life of Uyinene. The webinar will unpack violence against women. The programme will feature leading psychologists, including UCT’s Professor Floretta Boonzaier.
This Women’s Month, we remember and honour Uyinene’s life and the many in our society who are affected by SGBV. We recognise that not all survivors always receive optimal support as matters are often complicated by a myriad of factors but UCT is committed to keep improving our services and to continue raising awareness on the issue.
The university will continue to strengthen the response to this scourge using improved systems for SGBV management through advocacy, awareness and research.
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
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