South Africa. September 1. 2020. Statement of Abahlali baseMjondolo Women’s League about 14 women who have gone missing in uMthwalume since April.
Submitted to Enough 14.
Solidarity with Hlengiwe Gasa and uMthwalume Women
Fourteen women have gone missing in uMthwalume since April. Six are still missing. Another six have been found raped and murdered in the sugarcane fields. The other two managed to escape from the man or men that abducted them. The last body was found, burnt beyond recognition, this weekend.
A group of women in the area formed a women’s organisation, uMthwalume Women, to work to ensure each other’s safety and to oppose violence against women. On 25 July a group of about 100 women from uMthwalume Women marched in protest at the terrifying levels of violence against women in their community. The purpose of the march was to show their concern to the world and to deliver a memorandum to the SAPS, calling on them to act as women in the community were being raped and murdered.
The march was peaceful. The women just held their memorandum but the police teargassed them. One of the police officers told Hlengiwe Gaza, the leader of uMthwalume Women, to attend a meeting on 28 July to discuss the contents of the memorandum. She attended the meeting, as instructed, but there was no discussion about the contents of the memorandum. Instead the police threatened her, arrested her and charged her with violating the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
Hlengiwe will appear in the uMzumbe Magistrate Court at 9:00 tomorrow – 2 September.
What touches one woman touches all of us. We as women of Abahlali we will be at the court to be in solidarity with Hlengiwe, uMthwalume Women and all other women.
We want the charges brought against Hlengiwe to be dropped. We want the police to be held accountable for responding to a peaceful protest against terrifying violence against women by teargassing uMthwalume Women and arresting Hlengiwe.
The police do nothing to protect women from violence. In fact, as everyone knows it is common for the police to be the perpetrators of violence against women. We condemn the attitude of the police towards women and we condemn the regular police violence against women.
Each of us must act now to put an end to violence against women. We must put an
end to this chapter in our history. We urge all our comrades to support grassroots organisations that are organising and mobilising to advance democratic and community-based solutions to the crisis of violence against women.
Women are the backbone and engines of every home. Some men are afraid of women’s power. But we are no longer afraid. The world has changed women but women can change the world. We cannot continue accept violence against women. We must work together to change the world.
The government used the lockdown restrictions as an excuse to attack us, destroy our homes and to arrest Hlengiwe. They continue to describe autonomous grassroots organisations as criminal and to respond to our struggles with lies and violence.
We are told by the government that we should remain at home while the police solve our problems for us. But when they are not repressing and abusing us the police are galivanting in taverns, furniture shops and hardware stores using government vehicles for their personal business and enjoyment.
There is no man on this earth who was not carried by the womb of a woman and nurtured by a woman. We do not understand why so many men, including many police officers, hate us like they do. But we will continue to organise, to build women’s power in struggle, and to resist oppression.
uMbutho stands strong with all women and the struggle to build women’s power from below and in struggle.
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