Slain Fort Hare student was an anti-GBV campaigner, memorial service hears
Nosicelo Mtebeni was completing her final year of study for a law degree when she was murdered and dismembered
The murder of student Nosicelo Mtebeni had robbed SA of a future judge, University of Fort Hare vice-chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu said at her memorial service on Wednesday.
Nosicelo, cut into pieces and shoved into a suitcase and plastic bags not far from the university, was found last week in East London. Her boyfriend, with whom she shared a flat, was arrested after the grisly discovery.
Her head and hands were found hidden in a cupboard in a house.
Alutha Pasile, 25, abandoned his bail application when he appeared in the East London magistrate’s court on Monday. He was charged with murder and defeating the ends of justice.
“We have been robbed of a future constitutional judge,” Buhlungu said.
SRC transformation and gender officer Siphokazi Mbalo said that before President Cyril Ramaphosa declared gender-based violence to be a pandemic, Nosicelo had already identified it as such in 2019.
She wrote a post on Facebook on September 2 2019: “If you have a vagina and you live in SA, make sure you are armed, have a knife or a pepper spray all the time because you might be the next victim of rape.”
We are not Imbokodo, the women of our generation, we are human, we have breath, we have blood.Siphokazi Mbalo
Mbalo said: “It’s so sad that she anticipated rape but did not think that she could be killed to the point of being dismembered.
“Dear Nosicelo, may your spirit be with us in this war that we are about to begin as activists against GBV. We will not stop, we will fight and your spirit will carry us,” she said.
Mtebeni died as she and her colleagues were planning to run a programme they planned to name “open letter to men”.
“This platform was going to be given to our young SA women to tell men that we are not Imbokodo (rock), the women of our generation, we are human, we have breath, we have blood, we feel pain, so stop treating us like Imbokodo,” she said.
Family representative Nomvula Beauty Gugushe said they were overwhelmed by the support from the institution.
“We were in the dark valley of death but now God is with us.
“We were afraid and intimidated but now we are no longer afraid and intimidated. God is with us. He strengthened us and helped us. He gave us support with his righteous hand,” she said.
“I would like to thank the university and the police in East London. It shows that we are not hurting alone,” she said.
It is unfortunate that her dreams and aspirations will not be realised because of Aluta.Mkhanyiseli Nomana
SRC president Mkhanyiseli Nomana charged that the arrival of Alutha into Nosicelo’s life was not a blessing, as all the plans she had did not eventually come to pass.
“It is unfortunate that her dreams and aspirations will not be realised,” he said.
Nomana pleaded with everyone to pray for the institution and its students.
“There is a dark cloud hanging over our institution, a dark cloud that we have tried to get away from by lighting of candles. We are in a country where men kill women, day in day out, and this pandemic needs to be dealt with. We are living in a society where men no longer see women as their sisters or mothers but as objects,” he said.
Buhlungu said of the scourge of gender-based violence: “This is a societal problem. Let us come together and fight it jointly.”
He said two days after Nosicelo’s death, another student at the institution, Anovuya Siyahluma Sinuka, died after falling from the 12th floor of a building in East London.
“We have met with family and plans are under way to honour his memory,” Buhlungu said.
University registrar Njabulo Zuma said Nosicelo’s future had looked bright.
“She had dreams and was going to be joined by her parents in celebrating a critical milestone and that was cut short. We are really sad, particularly because all of this is happening in a month when we are supposed to be celebrating women. This is a big shock to the university,” said Zuma.
Dr Nombulelo Lubisi-Bizani, dean of the faculty of law at the institution, encouraged women in SA to protect each other.
“My dear ladies, Nosicelo’s departure affected us all. Now it is the time to leave our comfort zone and protect each other.
“Can I claim my right to dignity? Not when we are being abused, murdered and raped. When we walk in our streets to our villages, all over in our country, we don’t feel safe. Now Nosicelo is gone and will remain in our memories. She left us with a task. We have a responsibility as lawyers of this country, as community leaders and student leaders to be at the forefront of the fight against gender-based violence,” she said.
A member of the gender-based violence task team, Dr Rianna Oelofsen, said the issue should not be made a woman’s problem, as it was mainly men who perpetrated violence against women.
“We need to start with our boys in terms of educating and raising our children. We need to make sure that boys can deal with anger in a way that doesn’t mean that they use violence. We need to make sure mental health support is available for everyone,” she said.
Deputy higher education, science and innovation minister Buti Manamela said the story of Mtebeni was part of the broader story of women in SA.
“That they can be attacked any time and anywhere. We have robbed women of their agency to exist and pushed them to an edge where they want to disappear,” he said.
Mtebeni was born in Vosloorus, Gauteng on April 13 1998.
She completed her primary education at Naledi Junior Secondary School and matriculated at Tholang Senior Secondary School in 2016.
She registered for a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Fort Hare, East London, in 2017.
She was in the process of completing her final year of study when she was killed.
She leaves her parents Kholisile and Ntombizandile Mtebeni, her brothers and relatives.