Police Minister Bheki Cele was booed by thousands of university students and high school pupils who gathered outside Parliament on Wednesday to protest after the murder of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana.
The crowd of protesters, which included UCT vice chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng, demanded to know how politicians planned to keep women safe.
After needing help to be boosted onto a post to address them, Cele was booed when he started: “Young people, we understand your anger.”
He tried to tell a story about a student’s experience but didn’t get very far because the crowd wanted him to talk about solutions.
One woman shouted to him: “We don’t have time for stories! Shut the f*** up!”.
Cele said he was there to remember the student who lost her life and he wanted everyone to work together.
When a 42-year-old post office employee appeared in court on Monday for the murder, it emerged that the first-year film and media studies student had been killed in the Clareinch post office in Claremont the same day she disappeared – Saturday, August 24.
Prompting more jeers, Cele said the police investigation was still under way but “I can’t report to you how far we have gone with the matter”.
‘We are feeling the same pain’
“Government, we are feeling the same pain,” he added, as a line of police officials in riot gear made sure the crowd stayed back.
Phakeng said it was not right that women “had to think twice” before walking in public spaces.
“We voted for liberation but it feels like we went into another form of bondage,” she said to cheers.
“We want leadership and our politicians must tell us what they are going to do, now we are here… about our safety.”
Thapelo Matloporo, an 18-year Cape Town High School pupil told News24 that he and his male peers were there to show it was not okay that women were dying “for nothing”.
He recalled that he had recently accompanied his female friend through Gugulethu when men in a vehicle tried to kidnap her. He and his friends threw stones to scare them away.
Another male pupil, 17, said: “I hope this shows that not all men are savages and we also care about women… we are here to guide and empower women so they can also make their living”.
UCT PhD student, Tshiamiso Makwela, 27, said male aggression against women began with small acts, like finishing their sentences and “overpowering their thoughts”.
Explaining her poster, she said people accused of gender-based crimes should not be released on bail because it sent the message that “you can go and do something else”.
The crowd later marched to the Cape Town International Convention Centre, to join protesters there, where the World Economic Forum was taking place.