#TotalShutDown protest highlights gender-based violence and poor policing

About 150 protestors took part in a protest against gender-based violence and poor policing in Bishop Lavis as part of #TotalShutDown in Cape Town. Photo by Mzi Velapi

The #TotalShutDown protest in Cape Town blocked roads a year after first attempting to stop traffic to highlight violence in communities, poor policing and a lack of service delivery.

Cape Flats and township communities protested against gender-based violence and poor policing on Wednesday to mark the first year of the movement. Dubbed #TotalShutDown, community members in Khayelitsha, Bishop Lavis, Bonteheuwel, Mitchell’s Plain and Hanover Park blocked roads before handing a memorandum to the police. It is a movement that set a precedent for the recent popular outrage that brought the whole country to a standstill as people called for action to combat men who perpetrate violence against women. The protests were sparked by the rape and murder by a post office worker of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old UCT student.

Beverly Fortuin from Bishop Lavis Action Committee, BLAC, said that the #TotalShutDown protest is meant to highlight crime, poor policing and gender-based violence. “On my way to this protest I picked up a women who was brutally assaulted by her boyfriend. She had bruises on her face and she could not even walk. We are standing here today to say no to gender-based violence,” Fortuin said.

According to Fortuin, they started to protest around 04:00 in the morning and were later joined by taxi drivers who, according to her, also face crime as they are threatened by gangsters to whom they have to pay a protection fee. “The taxi drivers blocked the road with their taxis and that is when the police fired stun grenades at the protestors,” she said. According to Independent Online, a car belonging to one of the leaders was damaged by a stun grenade. The report also says that the police are investigating a case of public violence.

Police giving the protestors 5 minutes to disperse. Video by Chantal McKinnon

Fortuin maintains that the protest was peaceful up until the police fired the stun grenades. The protestors handed a list of 20 demands to Colonel Nomboniso Magashule of Bishop Lavis police station. Chief among the demands is for more police and law enforcement visibility in schools and in the community. Both Bishop Lavis and Khayelitsha are among the ten worst precincts in the country when it comes to attempted murder. On the service delivery front, the protestors want surveillance cameras and proper streetlights for Bishop Lavis, Nooitgedacht and Valhalla Park.

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The protest in Khayelitsha went to the police station where they spoke to the station leadership about crime and the lack of police visibility. Photo by Sinethemba Mbewana

In Khayelitsha, a group of about 30 protestors marched to the Khayelitsha police station demanding better police visibility, an end to gender-based violence and improved service delivery by the City of Cape Town.

Nolusindiso Nkawule, a member of BM Community Development Project, said that they joined the march because they face crime, and gender-based violence especially, on a daily basis.

“Since there is a shutdown today, we decided to come and join this march because everything that has been happening affects us all, such as crime, rape and women abuse. We live in fear especially for the children because they are very vulnerable and are easy targets. It’s easy for the criminals to target us because there are no police to stop them,” said Nkawule.

“We would appreciate even seeing a police van patrolling here three times a day. If the police get a call that there is a robbery taking place, it would take them about an hour to get here but if a criminal is being beaten then they would arrive within minutes,” she added.

Another BM section resident, Unathi Simakade, said that she joined the march because she is concerned about crime in the area. “The police must not only be visible when someone is dead, they should always be patrolling,” she said.

Mosuli Qhaba, a secretary for the Khayelitsha Labour Community Media Forum, said that they support the BM Community Project and are also in solidarity with #TotalShutDown in the Western Cape to raise voices and concerns around gender-based violence and child abuse. He says that programmes to end the epidemic of violence must be implemented.

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The protestors marched to the Khayelitsha police station where they met with Colonels Ruth Yelani and Luzuko Majola, who both responded to the demands by saying that there is a need for people to be educated about how policing works and how to follow up on their cases. “Community leaders need to start working with the police to educate the community about these issues,” said Col Majola.

Col Yelani said that the community needs to start going to court to follow cases of violence because evident public interest can influence whether the accused gets bail or not.

Also in attendance was Vuyo Lufele, the Western Cape Provincial Secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) who said the police need to be reminded that they have a responsibility to protect the people: “Police should really start to rebuild and bring back people’s confidence and trust in them.”

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