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Memorial lecture pays tribute to slain woman worker in South Africa

15 November, 2018Thembisile Lucia Yende, who worked for power utility Eskom, was murdered at work at a substation near Springs in 2017, and the main suspect was arrested but later released. The case has been provisionally withdrawn until more evidence is available.

But her union, Industrial Global Union affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), and the family are not giving up on getting justice. NUMSA accuses Eskom of negligence because when Yende was murdered the cameras were not working and there were no security guards at the power station as is the norm.

On 3 November, The Thembisile Lucia Yende Foundation, which was formed in her honour, organized a memorial lecture in KwaThema. The foundation aims to fight injustice and promote a safer society for women. It’s programmes promote gender equality and its formation is a response to the unresolved murders of women whose cases are often struck off the courts for lack of evidence or sloppy investigations by the police in which sometimes where credible evidence is destroyed.

The memorial lecturer was attended by representatives from the South African Police Service (SAPS), the South African Human Rights Commission, the government department of social development, and civil society organizations. There was consensus amongst the speakers that improving women’s safety and security at work and in the community is urgent especially as it comes after 549 women were killed in Gauteng Province last year according to the SAPS.

Says Ruth Ntlokotse, NUMSA’s second deputy president:

“As workers, women are breadwinners that provide for their families. They are also an important part of the community and society. The enormity of the threat to their lives and the physical harm common in gender-based violence is a call for us to take to the streets to stop the murders and rapes. South African women face gender-based violence every day and we must unite to confront the menace.”

A recent meeting by IndustriALL affiliates in Cape Town called upon employers to end gender-based violence at work by improving security at workplaces. On 25 November, the world day for the elimination of violence against women, IndustriALL is calling on its affiliates to sign The Pledge, to take action to stop sexual harassment and gender-based violence at work.

A few weeks ago, the government organized the National Summit against Gender-based Violence and Femicide, where calls were made to improve the safety and security of women.