Last week’s rolling protests against the ongoing murders of women were signs of a society coming apart at the seams.
I don’t quite know what about the brutal murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana shook us awake, but I’m glad that it did.
Was it because as a 19-year-old student, she was at the threshold of a promising adulthood, or that she was attacked in broad daylight inside a Post Office, a stone’s throw away from a police station?
These are all glaring indicators of lawlessness, the anarchy that looms, if we don’t address it with urgency.
I think President Cyril Ramaphosa sensed the despondency, fear and anger, which is why he finally addressed the nation about this.
It’s also why so many politicians attended Uyinene’s funeral in the Eastern Cape this weekend.
But I think most people agree that it was all too little, too late.
Uyinene’s killing also came with the backdrop of an economy that is sputtering along with regular black smoke backfiring that can only mean ill-health and, of course, the ongoing murders of women that reached alarming proportions.
Hardly a day passes without news of yet another woman whose life had been snuffed out.
I was worried that at this rate, we would become desensitised, but instead Uyinene triggered the exact opposite reaction.
There’s simply too much about her murder that is familiar to the average South African.
She wasn’t in an abusive relationship, or walking around late at night, or out partying, or any of the other reasons that allow our conscience to ignore this sort of thing.
She was an ordinary young woman in a relatively safe neighbourhood doing something many of us do on a regular basis, using a government service.
I suspect that may be why the public uprising and the social media outcries have been so universal and sustained.
If this can happen so close to home and in such a familiar way, then nothing stops it from happening to us.
It is mostly fear that is driving our response to Uyinene’s murder. But I am OK with that, because it’s about time.
There’s been enough apathy over the years and enough protests that have gone nowhere, because of lack of support from the masses.
And now we need to guard against falling into disinterest again.
Uyinene’s spirit must be kept alive and become a catalyst for change; a kind of war cry that forces government into even more changes than the ones Ramaphosa promised.
I have often wondered what it was going to take to force us all out of our general indifference as a society.
On the one hand I’m sad that it took a terrible murder, but on the other hand I’m pleased that at least we have now had a taste of what is possible when the people are finally gatvol and standing together.
The question is what, and where to next?
How do we force the legal and political changes that are needed to keep ourselves and our children safe from harm?
Will it be ongoing weekly protests that grow bigger and stronger and louder; or lobbying politicians directly; will we see increased organised vigilantism, as some have been advocating; or will it be enough to keep this alive on social media, what I like to call slacktivism?
The one thing that has become clear to me over the last two weeks, is that as a society we can tolerate a lot, but when it comes to the safety of our loved ones, we have a very short fuse.