Residents of the Jeppe Men's Hostel waving batons in the Johannesburg CBD, September 3 2019. Picture: MICHELE SPATARI / AFP
Residents of the Jeppe Men's Hostel waving batons in the Johannesburg CBD, September 3 2019. Picture: MICHELE SPATARI / AFP

The scale of the spontaneous outpouring of grief and anger at Uyinene Mrwetyana’s brutal murder has been quite out of step with an event that has practically become commonplace in our country. My wife was murdered during a forced entry into our home in 2009.

It illustrates just how widespread and deep the resentment against the aggression and violence meted out by men against women and children has gone. And yet, no matter how loudly the point gets made, it seems it quickly gets filed away until the next tragedy.  

That is because when hostel dwellers go on the rampage with knobkerries, it is interpreted as “blatant criminality” by ministers, as “xenophobia” by the commentariat, or a “third force” by anti-apartheid activists. When garbage collectors and taxi drivers turn inner-city Pretoria over, it’s called a “protest gone wrong” or “opportunistic looting”. 

Perhaps so, but preceding any of these interpretations is the raw fact that you are witnessing the same male aggression faced by women at a micro level all the time. It is mindless male mobs parading, in fact revelling and vividly living out, their violent intent in full public view. 

If Uyinene’s death is to have any lasting effect, aggressive toyi-toyiing must be taken for what it is: male intimidation on display without any other reason or purpose. The cause is psychological, not political. As the Black Sash women did in every town-square across the country in the late 1950s, so we must constantly remind the government that personal security and safety are not for those in power only. We all demand it.  

Jens Kuhn
Cape Town