South Africans unite as powerful home-grown movements reverberate online and on the streets

While very different, #AmINext and #ImStaying demonstrate the bravery and patriotism of ordinary South Africans in the face of gloomy headlines and near constant negativity.

In September, South Africans learned that first-year UCT film student, Uyinene Mrwetyana was murdered by a Post Office employee. It was yet another piece of shattering news following a spate of gender-based violence that also claimed the lives of Leighandre Jegels, Nolunde Vumsindo, Meghan Cremer, Jesse Hess and others.

In a country where the murder rate for women is five times higher than the global average, the understandable sadness, anger and frustration transformed itself into the #AmINext movement. The movement saw women ask themselves, each other, and their communities the question: Am I Next? Scores of women from all walks of life gathered together to stand up against the scourge of femicide and violence, as well as law enforcement agencies’ (and broader society’s) apparent inability to reckon with this ongoing and very real problem. 

Demonstrators marched in front of Parliament and at the World Economic Forum meeting in Cape Town where the continent’s leaders had gathered. #AmINext spread across university campuses, to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and up and down South African streets, beachfronts and suburban thoroughfares. It was an idea whose time had come. So effective were the protests and calls to action on social media that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced government would reallocate R1.1bn in additional funding this financial year to dispel what he called the “dark and heavy shadow” of gender-based violence in South Africa, while adding, “The time for talk is over.”

At the same time, South Africans were reaffirming their patriotism in a Facebook group called #ImStaying. The movement was started by estate agent Jarette Petzer. The group, now well over 800,000 strong encourages people to share positive thoughts, words and deeds in spite of the all too familiar stories of violent crime, corruption and general gloom. According to the group’s Facebook page, “#ImStaying is dedicated to the South African women and men of all races, cultures, religions and creeds that choose to grow and improve South Africa. This group is to honour all those who still believe that we as a nation can turn things around. We focus on the people, beauty and positivity in South Africa and all the good vibes. To all those who choose to work as one, to grow this beautiful country we call home! This group belongs to all willing to make a positive difference!”

#ImStaying is not without its critics. Some have accused the group of being naïve about the complex problems South Africa faces. Writing for the Financial Mail, former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, Chris Roper, commented: “The #ImStaying movement is easy to lampoon. But fundamentally, people need to make sense of their lives in a way that allows them to get up every day and carry on with the business of making our messy, violent, broken paradox of a country move forward.”

Whether #ImStaying can grow into a movement of real-world activism remains to be seen, but what must be undeniable, even to the most cynical of critics, is the potential power of 800,000 South Africans who are committed to a united South Africa for all, to positive change, and who dare to hope for a better tomorrow. As the famous adage goes: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

EOH strongly supports the eradication of violence and abuse towards anyone in this country. As an organisation we aim to inspire unity, tolerance and equality, built through a culture of Courageous Leadership.

EOH is committed to providing products and solutions to help grow our great Nation and to continue building an organisation that South Africa can be proud of.

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