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Mr. President, I can’t breathe

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Mr. President, I can’t breathe

26th June 2020


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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Polity.

Bhekisisa Mncube is a Zulu ambassador based in Pretoria. He is an author and journalist.


Mr. President, my name is Tshegofatso Pule. You didn’t know me until news broke that I had been brutally murdered.

At the time of my untimely death, I was eight months pregnant. My baby daughter is dead too just like me.


I was found hanging from a tree and stabbed in the upper body, this is hardly a feat to be achieved by someone without the deadly premeditation or intoxicated.

My killing was purposeful and it was carried out with military precision.

I was killed by a man. I suffered maximum pain. I cried. I begged. I prayed. Well, I was still killed. 

Mr. President, I am one of the lucky ones, though, my brutal death caused outrage on social media and the hashtag #JusticeForTshego trended on Twitter as soon as news broke. I even made headlines internationally including on the BBC.

Mr. President, you also mentioned my name and a few of my companions last week when you addressed the nation. In dedicating time in your Covid-19 address to include the scourge of gender-based violence, you showed leadership, assured the nation, and most importantly, you displayed compassion. You were particularly irked by the extent of violence that accompanies the killing, calling it, a "brutality that defies comprehension.”

Sorry, Mr. President, I didn’t listen to your address. I never heard your assurances. It is not even a case of, well it was too little too late. It is neither because I am tone-deaf nor disrespectful to you as the head of state. Mr. President, the thing is, I can no longer partake in human interactions. I can’t breathe. I am dead.

Mr. President, I am dead, therefore, I run the risk of joining the long list of the forgotten ones. Mr. President, this is not my story. I am just a footnote in a much larger play of the virulent twin epidemics of the male chauvinism and toxic masculinities sweeping through the country. I am not the only one who can’t breathe anymore.

Mr. President, I am Naledi Phangindawo, I was hacked to death with an axe. I leave behind three children aged two, four, and six.

I am Altecia Kortjie. I was stabbed multiple times and died in agony. My daughter Raynecia Kortjie (7) was also murdered. 

I am Nompumelelo Tshaka, my body was found dumped in an open field like some discarded rubbish.

I am Sibongiseni Gabada, my half-naked and semi-decomposed corpse was found “neatly packed” in the bag.

I am Nwabisa Mgwandela, I was tied up with a rope, and left hanging in my house.

I am Lindelwa Peni, my body was found in a bushy area, laying face up on the ground, alone and discarded.

These dead women, Mr. President, are the lucky ones whose names are still fresh in the minds of many. However, we join an illustrious list of strong women whose dreams were also cut short. They too can no longer breathe.

Here’s are some names in no order of importance: Gomolemo Legae, Leighandre "Baby Lee" Jegels, Precious Ramabulana, Uyinene Mrwetyana, Nthabiseng Rampai, Kgaugelo Tshawane, Aviwe Wellem, Meghan Cremer, Nhlanhla Mphahlele, Jesse Hess, Susan Rohde, Winnie Rust, Karabo Mokoena, Hannah Cornelius, Zolile Khumalo, Ntombizodwa Charlotte Dlamini, Nompumelelo Mthembu, Jabulile Nhlapo, Meisie Maisha, Lethukuthula Ngobese, Popi Qwabe, Bongeka Phungula, Priska Schalk, Anene Booysen, Reeva Steenkamp, Hannah Cornelius, Courtney Pietersen, Naledi Lethoba, Lerato Moloi, Althena Malgas, Shelly Van der Walt, Nadia Strydom, Viwe Dalingozi, Thandiwe Mavanene, Sharon Potgieter, Patiswa Enhlisombi, Louise de Waal, Dawn Basdeo, Agnes Mzisa, Catherine Krog, Renate Kellerman, Rejoice Mdluli, Aviwe JamJam, Thembisile Yende, Gabriela Alban, Tebogo Ndlovu, Sakina Grimwood, Yolizwa Sibiya, Hope Zinde, Noxolo Xabeka, Helga Van Wyk, Jodene Pieters, Desiree Murugan, Zanele Khumalo, Versha Kandasmy, Kungawa Mazembi, Nicola Pienaar, Zara Hector, Sharnelle Hough, Marna Engelbrecht, Christel Steenkamp, Marthella Steenkamp, Gwen Wall, Maryka Bezuidenhout Kleinhans, June Nefdt, Erika Croeser, Naomi Barkhuizen, Emma Wall, Mymie Fraser, Gio Arendse, Frieda Arendse, Nikita Lewis, Sonja Swartz, Joan Anderson, Baby Jordan, Brenda Fairhead, Kia Fairhead, Erika Enslin, Annette Kennealy, Sandra Malcolm, Marilyn Moses, Lynne Hume, Peddie Dodds, Gwen Rist, Janine Drennen, Baby Kayla Rawson, Hester Rawson, Rene Vermeulen, Rachel Dolly Tshabalala,Tercia Kindo, Liesl Nel, Dorned Paashaus, Isabella Maria Henry, Geraldine Vienna, Vicky McLachlan, Marie Ostbo, Privilege Mabvongwe.

Mr. President, thanks for your concern and leadership, but one hopes that you and the legions of SA men aren’t due for a regular visit by the Charles Dickens’s character, The Ghost of Christmas Past to nudge you towards concomitant action, not just words to end the scourge of wanton killings of women by men. We would never find out, each day is the same in heaven. Mr. President, I can’t breathe.  Till next week my man.

"Send me."



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