Reported by Lebohang Mashiloane
When the nationwide lockdown started in late March, only essential services workers were allowed to continue working.
When clinic staff worker, Refiloe Ramphone returned from work, she passed by the local U-Save store to buy airtime before going home. Nearing her house, a neighbour in his yard asked her what she was doing in the streets. Refiloe, not knowing who this man was, continued on her way.
When he persisted, claiming everyone must stay home, Miss Ramphone was met with multiple racist ranting saying: “you K**firs are the reason this disease is going to spread!”
The abuse went from bad to worse when was slapped on the face by this angry neighbour who used the derogatory words.
The incident occurred at Rensburg, a small township in Heidelberg. Refiloe has been living there with her family for years. When her father was told about the fight, he wanted to handle things himself, but called the police to confront the perpetrator.
When police interviewed the suspect, he admitted he assaulted Refiloe and everything he said to her. A case was opened. Because of lockdown restrictions (being at level 5 at the time), Ramphone could not follow up with her case to court. She was not even contacted by police to provide progress on her case.
“I called then a week later for a follow up and I was told the prosecutor said my case was not ‘strong enough’ because I hit him back,” explained Ramphone.
According to her, the legal system has failed her twice. She believes that perpetrators are given favours to some extent – making cases like hers to not even get a day in court.
“I’m so angry! That’s it.”Reflioe sharing her frustrations with Mapepeza in an interview
When Reflioe shared her experience on social media, it caught the attention of many residents in Lesedi who also posted their frustrations with how local police handle Gender-Based Violence cases.
Seeing that no action has been taken, members of the EFFSC (EFF Student Command) joined Ramphone to protest outside the perpetrator’s house recently.
“When Refiloe posted about her lived experience, it evoked many emotions in black people. As activists we organized ourselves to be in solidarity with Refiloe not just her but the thousands of women and people who are victims of GBV and racism. As activists decided that it was time to confront racism,” said the EFFSC.
Assembling at the man’s home, it took only a few minutes before Heidelberg police made an appearance and asked them to disperse.
“When we got there, we sang songs that were close to our hearts and spoke about the current situation then. The same officers that were supposed to protect Refiloe when she first reported the incident were there to protect the perpetrator against a group of unarmed activists. It was a shock when the second and third police cars came ten minutes later. How dangerous is a confrontation by a group of unarmed activists?,” said the local youth organization.
Chairperson of the EFFSC Sedibeng Heidelberg Campus, Thulani Mashinini, who was very vocal during the protest said: “We are different generation. We will not take racism and GBV lying down. In a time when women are dying daily at the hands of men, we can not turn a blind eye and expect the SAPS to respond. Because if we do by the time they respond all black women will be dead. I for one refuse to watch my fellow sisters die at the hands of men be it black or white. There is absolutely no need for black women to be casualties of a war we didn’t start.”