A Girl Who Lived and Died in South Africa

by Iswamo Kapalu

We came into the same world her and I. Kicking and screaming like all children do. Our first breaths almost synchronised; we learnt to live almost in step.  Similarly proud glances must have been cast on the first scraps of paper which bore our names in our own unsteady handwriting.

She must have known as I do, the paralyzing anxiety of watching the street lights come on and knowing that this time you’ve played too long. She must have known as I do, the feeling of a bad day at school. Like me, she had felt the sun on her skin and wind on her cheeks. Like me she must have stopped, at least once, to look up at the stars in the sky.

Surely just as I did she learnt to love. First, those in her home, and suddenly and without warning those outside it. She must have known that first and furious fascination of young love. She must have fallen asleep, hoping the night passes quickly so the day can reunite her with her beloved. She must have felt warmth of skin. She must have sat in love’s perfect stillness, where all that seemed to move in the whole wide world was her beloved’s chest as it rhythmically filled with breath.

But she discovered as I did that the world is cruel and filled with hateful men who can barely even begin to describe why they hate you. Men who will build entire lives around destroying yours to satisfy their hate. Their irrational and inexplicable hate. But she believed that she could educate people out of their hate and so she dedicated her young life to being an educator and activist because she, like I do, loved women.

Her love, unlike mine, was unwelcome in this world. So the men whose inexplicable hatred for how she loved took it upon themselves to take her out of it. Ten cowardly men came to her home, broke windows and broke down doors and took her. They took her out of this world the way she came in, kicking and screaming.

Her name, which she had written many times and with a growing certainty of self, is now a hashtag. The night that once watched her smile to herself because of who she loved, presided over her brutal death because of how she loved.

Her name was Noluvo Swelindawo. She was 22.

Mr Iswamo Kapalu

Iswamo Kapalu is a young South African of Zambian origin. He holds an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand and currently works as a researcher, writer and social justice advocate at the Jesuit Institute.

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