South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence inflicted on women and girls in the world, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Crime statistics by the South African Police Service (SAPS) show that in 2019/20, a total of 2 695 women were murdered in South Africa – that’s one woman every three hours.

“Gender-based violence is South Africa’s second pandemic (competing with Covid-19), as cited by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the start of lockdown level 3 last year when 21 women and children were murdered in the span of two weeks,” explains arts and performance specialist, Mandla Mbothwe of Mud & Fire Parables, the driving force behind the hard-hitting online movement, Body of Evidence. Mbothwe is a University of Cape Town academic. He is also co-artistic director of Magnet Theatre.

Supported and funded by Distell, the national campaign stars some of South Africa’s established as well as new artistic talent. It has been co-curated by Mbothwe, together with award-winning artist, performer and activist, Qondiswa James.

Says marketing manager for Distell’s corporate affairs department: “Body of Evidence was launched late last year, in collaboration with Distell, to address the impact of gender-based violence in South Africa whilst supporting local artists and providing them a platform to express their own thoughts and feelings about GBV. 

“It features a series of short, powerful musical, dance, visual, narrative, poetry and conceptual pieces – all designed to galvanise a new way of thinking about our humanity and our responsibility to each other and to build a counter movement embracing all levels of society.

“Gender-based violence affects every single one of us to some extent. Being so acutely aware of its impact, how could we not get involved and take action to show our fury and start flexing our muscle in combatting this pandemic that’s way to prevalent in our communities? We are proud to be part of this movement that helps drive the conversations that need to happen to stop gender-based criminal thinking and behaviour in its tracks.” 

More than 40 interdisciplinary artists have thus far contributed in various capacities to Body of Evidence and continue to do so. The campaign is hosted by and associated social media platforms. Underpinning the initiative is a national 24/7 hotline (0800 428 428) for those subjected to gender-based violence.

“We’re enormously pleased with the results of the launch phase of our campaign and are now moving forward in introducing an online content series featuring artists in discussion about the gender-based war zone we’re finding ourselves in, potential solutions and ways of helping victims,” Mbothwe states.  

The series, to be broadcast in short segments on Facebook and Instagram Live, with full clips available on the site, will start on Monday, 8 March (International Women’s Day). The first instalment is set to feature actress Lee-Ann van Rooi and poet Koleka Putuma, in conversation with counselling psychologist Masimbulele Buso, managing director of the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation, that’s joined forces with the campaign. 

Next up will be high-profile television personalities Masasa Mbangeni and Bongile Mantsai, on Thursday, 11 March, with the conversation also facilitated by Buso.   

“An e-book will also be launched in the coming weeks,” Mbothwe adds. “Meant as an ongoing collection of creative work by known artistic talent as well as the general public, we’re hoping it would provide a safe space for the sharing of stories, knowing that healing starts by exposing darkness to light.

“We are putting a call out there for everyone to join our fight. This is a collective effort. We are working with others and in turn ask others to join us.”

Body of Evidence has been working closely with emotional wellness consultants, Procarebothin creating content and in directing support for those needing it. 

To view the introductory video of the campaign, click here.  Or click here to watch Procare’s hotline video.  

For details of all contributing artists, click here, or visit

Follow the series on Facebook and Instagram: @BodyofEvidence

Join the conversation and use the hashtag: #BodyofEvidence

Body of Evidence is sponsored by Distell, Africa’s leading producer of alcoholic beverages.