Scores of rights activists embarked on a “silent protest” in Pretoria CBD on Friday, posing with placards in the middle of busy streets, denouncing the abuse of women and girls across South Africa.
Organisers of the picket – student activists Zulaikha Patel and Boitumelo Thage – were however unhappy with widespread media reports previewing their demonstration as a “naked protest”.
Patel told journalists outside the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court along Francis Baard Street in Pretoria: “We are the planners, and we initiated the protest. We both initiated this protest on the terms of agreeing that we both know that this is not a naked protest but instead this is a silent demonstration.
“We both agreed that we were coming in white tops and shorts because we also wanted to make sure a statement that [one’s] clothing is not consent.”
Patel said the “silent protest” was aimed at sending a very strong message to society, highlighting the scourge of abuse “so that the justice system can start protecting the victims”.
“We feel that victims aren’t protected. If you look at Cheryl Zondi, the questions that she was asked, she wasn’t protected at all as a victim,” said Patel.
Thage said, as a young woman growing up in South Africa, she faces daily uncertainty and fears of falling victim to the rampant crime targeted particularly at women and girls.
“I know that for some women, we live with the fear of not being able to go back home. When I leave home in the morning, my parents [have that fear that] I may not come back home, or I might come back maybe as a headline. Having those fears, and walking around the streets, men look at us like we were pieces of meat or objects that can easily be taken.”
The pair of “radical black feminists” were joined by their peers and they stood at different busy intersections waving placards denouncing abuse and femicide.
Several motorists hooted in support of the young people.
University of South Africa student Rebaone Maweni said she was also taking part in the protest because it had become “apparent” that abusers were treated according to their skin colour.
Citing the ongoing rape trial of Nicholas Ninow, who is accused of raping a seven-year-old girl in a Silverton Dros restaurant, Maweni said the justice system is failing the victim.
“There is still white supremacy and apartheid is still in existence. If it was just a normal black guy, he would have been in jail a long time ago. But because he is white, he is being examined, being taken to mental institutions for examination. This man [Ninow] was there, and there was a video of him doing whatever he was doing to the kid. There is enough proof,” said Maweni.