Sonke Gender Justice extends condolences to the family of Zenizole Vena, who died at the age of 15, and demands accountability

Sonke Gender Justice extends its heartfelt condolences to Zenizole Vena’s family and friends. We are deeply disturbed to learn of the death of yet another young person as a result of violence and the negligence of state institutions.

According to reports, Vena died in the arms of Sindiswa Ntantiso inside the Motherwell police station’s community service centre on September 21 after they allegedly went to the Motherwell clinic for help. It is alleged that they were turned down and told to go to a police station first.

Despite the fact that the health department in the Eastern Cape has disputed these reports,  we know that this is typical of South Africa’s health system, particularly in rural communities where survivors and victims of gender-based violence continue to be revictimized and not afforded much needed services when they present themselves at the facilities. Women and girls seeking treatment in the public health system are frequently turned away, with no professional or compassionate care or counselling. This despite the often-stated government commitment to provide service embedded in ubuntu principles of ‘batho pele’.

It is the state’s responsibility to provide treatment to all survivors of GBV and rape in a safe and sensitive manner given the trauma. Unfortunately, we have seen instances of recklessness and lack of empathy by some health care providers.

In a country like ours, with high rates of GBV and HIV infection, such cases of negligence should not occur, but preventative measures, such as addressing high levels of crime, including rape, , must be implemented. The Department of Health should do everything possible to ensure that survivors of assault and sexual violence receive adequate care and that victims are treated with care and compassion and that all the crucial DNA evidence is collected at this crucial time.

South Africa has one of the highest rape rates in the world, even higher than in some war-torn countries. Furthermore, sexual assault is significantly underreported. To end this systemic and endemic culture, all stakeholders must step up and commit to investing resources and ensure that we  fight as a collective.

To this end, we call upon all related state organs involved with this case namely the Dept of health and SAPS to subject themselves to an independent review on how they handled this matter. Zenizole and her family deserves the truth. It will be crucial that in an event of any failures or lapses that will be uncovered by the investigation all those involved be held accountable.

Call to Action

  • Sonke demands that the police dedicate all available resources to finalising the investigation and apprehending the alleged perpetrators.
  • An investigation into negligence or mismanagement of both the Dept of Health and SAPS in the late Zenizole Vena’s case.
  • The Dept of Justice must fast track the roll out of the Thuthuzela care centres in all areas. More specially trained sexual assault nurse examiners are needed (SANE) in all health care facilities.

Media enquiries

Bafana Khumalo, Co-Executive Director, and Co-Chairperson, Global MenEngage Alliance: or 082 -578-4479.

Notes to editors

Sonke is a South African-based non-profit organisation working throughout Africa. We believe women and men, girls and boys can work together to resist patriarchy, advocate for gender justice, and achieve gender transformation.