Universiteit Stellenbosch
Welkom by Universiteit Stellenbosch
When the will becomes the way
Outeur: Petro Mostert
Gepubliseer: 07/05/2024

When you walk along the Eerste River on the Koloniesland trail, you will find a small plaque next to a tree donated by Anton Rupert with the words:

“Waar daar 'n wil is, is daar 'n weg en soms word die wil die weg". In English: "Where there's a will, there's a way, and sometimes the will becomes the way".

These few words describe the tremendous effort that went into establishing the first support centre for victims of gender-based violence (GB) in Ida's Valley. The Thuthuzela Care Centre (TCC) was officially opened on 17 April, although its doors opened in February this year.

When Jaco Greeff Brink, Head of Stellenbosch University's (SU) Equality Unit, approached Nicolette van den Eijkel, Chief Director: Facilities Management to help him find a space for rape and GBV victims, she immediately identified the Bothmashoogte building in Ida's Valley, which was previously used as a residence and then vacant. Her "will" took over and went in overdrive as she jumped through a million hoops to make this happen.

Despite push-back, red tape, long meetings, and many questions from a thousand stakeholders, she persevered, and the centre became a reality. The last hurdle was to finalise the lease agreement, Nicolette got Prof Stan du Plessis's, SU's Chief Operating Officer's, buy-in, and the project became a reality. "I remember how I walked up to Stan and just gave him one enormous hug," Nicolette recalled.

What is more is that since this facility opened in February, already more than ninety GBV victims have been helped and supported – underlining the dire need for such a facility. Victims receive here the emotional, psychological, and legal support to pursue a conviction against their perpetrators. A facility like this makes it easier for victims to follow through with legal action to ensure they get the justice they deserve.

Anel Lewis, senior journalist at Corporate Communications, wrote in an article on SU's website that the Centre has relieved the load of the Stellenbosch district hospital by providing a safe alternative for victims looking for support and emergency accommodation—said Provincial Minister of Social Development Sharna Fernandez. "The TCC is a place where wounded can start to rebuild, where they can transcend from victim to survivor. This Centre is just one aspect of the arsenal we need to fight the scourge of GBV".

She emphasizes how this Centre is a symbol of collaboration, made possible through the cooperation of the National Public Prosecuting Authority, the national and provincial governments, the South African Police Services, Stellenbosch University (SU), Stellenbosch Municipality, Mediclinic, Ring for Peace Cape Trust, the private sector, and "active citizens."

SU's involvement is through the INSPIRE (Initiative for Nonviolence, Support, Prevention, Intervention, Research, and Education) facility, which will help to establish global networks to study nonviolence and create an environment for academics and students to research GBV.

For Nicolette, this is another full circle in which she was privileged to play a crucial part. "This is a healing place, one where people feel safe and welcome to return to." Nicolette's will has undoubtedly become a way—a Centre that will soon be sustainable and provide a community with a crucial service. ​