By Ashleigh Swaile
Grahamstown’s High Street Magistrate’s Office became a site of protest and singing last week Thursday, as Rhodes employees and students gathered to urge the denial of bail for the alleged rapists and murderers of Christina Royi and her aunt, Boniwe “Hola” Ngwendu. The attacks and deaths of the two women recently made headlines in Grahamstown and have subsequently sparked an outcry within the university, and the greater community.
Royi and her 78 year old aunt were attacked and gang raped over two weeks ago outside Royi’s Extension 6 home. Covered in paraffin and set alight, Ngwendu was found by the police unconscious and critically injured. She later died from her injuries in Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth. Royi had been strangled by her attackers, and died by the time the police had reached the scene.
“We are just here to support,” said one Rhodes employee who wished to remain anonymous. Commenting on her presence outside the Magistrate’s Office, she added: “We’re so tired of this raping. I didn’t know them very well, but what I read in the paper was very sad. What happened to them could happen to us as well.”
According to this employee, “People that are doing this should be hanged. There are some serious crimes that must have a serious penalty.”
A growing demand for the severe sentencing of Royi and Ngwendu’s alleged attackers was confirmed by Larissa Klazinga of the Rhodes Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). Klazinga, also a supporter of the 1 in 9 Campaign, said “there is a real call among people to reinstate the death penalty in this case. I personally do not believe in it, but I do think there is a great need for swift and efficient court proceedings.”
She added that that she believes the community is justifiably outraged by the attacks. “We call for justice, and believe that the accused should be denied bail.”
The deaths of Royi and Ngwendu have been added to a growing list of rape statistics in Grahamstown. Approximately 150 rape cases are reported in Grahamstown a year, however 1 in 9 statistics place this figure in the region of 1350 cases, most of which are never reported.
Commenting on the student turnout on Thursday, Klazinga stated that “it is always hard at this time of year for students to focus on anything other than exams. But people, including students have become desensitized to rape in this town. There is definitely a level of complacency, even with something so serious.”
The trial of the women’s alleged murderers continues.