Uyinene’s lasting legacy

IN YOUR NAME: Residents march from Kingswood College High Performance Centre in Makhanda in memory of slain University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana to launch the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation on Friday
IN YOUR NAME: Residents march from Kingswood College High Performance Centre in Makhanda in memory of slain University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana to launch the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation on Friday
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

The Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation hopes to re-purpose the Clareinch post office, where the 19-year-old student was raped and murdered, into a wellness centre for people affected by gender-based violence.

This was revealed at the launch on Friday of the foundation by Uyinene’s mother, Rhodes University student affairs director Noma Mrwetyana.

“We want to turn that post office from a place of violence into a place of healing,” Mrwetyana told dozens of community leaders, academics, politicians, clergy and  pupils attending the launch of the foundation at Uyinene’s alma mater, Kingswood College, in Makhanda.

The launch of the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation symbolised a crossover for the Mrwetyana family where mourning would be replaced with a celebration of her legacy and  memory,  an emotional Mrwetyana said.

Speaking out for the first time in public about the devastation of losing her remarkable daughter, Mrwetyana said she had been forced to reflect and think critically about what had gone on in the world.

“Uyi-Uyi always operated with passion and eagerness in responding to social ills plaguing our society.

“It was particularly painful to have lost her to the very violence she stood so strongly against.

“It is a pain that — as a mother — I would not wish on any other.”

Her passion for social justice is the side of Uyinene that the foundation would tap into and celebrate.

“I stand here as a mother with mixed feelings dressed in emotions of many colours,” Mrwetyana  said.

“In the midst of these colours I choose the bright, glowing hues that represent Uyi’s personality.

“She brought light and positive energy to everyone she came across.

“That is the Uyinene we raised and set free to affect lives positively.

“Today we are here to share and build her legacy.”

She said the foundation would partner with multiple stakeholders to fight gender-based violence  and equip young people to stand against it.

Its approach would be three-pronged, looking at prevention of gender-based violence, providing holistic services to survivors, and youth leadership development around the issue.

The foundation’s logo sports the now iconic photo of Uyinene wearing her green beret.

Before the march, hundreds of people took to the streets of Makhanda to celebrate the establishment of the  foundation that would honour the murdered University of Cape Town student.

The march, under the banner “Together Restoring Humanity”, was a precursor to the launch.

The Mrwetyana family, accompanied by friends, academics, students, community and sports leaders and politicians braved scorching hot weather and a fast approaching storm to celebrate the foundation.

Mrwetyana marched in front with her family, along with Rhodes University vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela and social development MEC Siphokazi Mani.

“The foundation’s intention is to galvanise proactive action,” Mrwetyana said.

Mabizela said the university had entered into a lifelong partnership with the foundation.

As a contribution to the foundation, the university would give one postgraduate student a bursary of R40,000.

“The issue of sexual and gender-based violence is endemic in our society, and what we [Rhodes] have committed ourselves to do is make available a bursary to a student who wishes to pursue their master’s degree focusing on issues around gender-based violence.

“Our role as a university cannot just be to lament the tragedy of the scourge.

“We have to go a step further to research and get concrete interventions of how to put a stop to this scourge,” Mabizela said.

Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle sent a video in support of the foundation.

She said  gender violence was not unique to SA.

“We stand with Noma because no mother should have to experience the pain and grief you have, and no women or girl should have to experience what Uyinene did.”

Springbok Rugby World Cup star  Makazole Mapimpi, who was unable to attend the launch, sent a passionate message of support.

He said he had worn a black armband with Uyinene’s name on it during the final in Japan in memory of the young woman and to highlight gender violence  in SA.

Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said he hoped the foundation would  spark a sense of decency in men, and  make them realise their duty to protect women and children against violence.

The launch of the foundation came just two weeks after postal worker Luyanda Botha pleaded guilty  to Uyinene’s rape and murder, having lured her to the Clareinch post office after it had closed on the pretense a package she was expecting was available.

Botha was found guilty on four counts including rape, murder and obstructing the administration of justice, and sentenced to three life sentences and five years for obstruction of justice.