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A photograph of Mandla Hlatshwayo is carried in front of his coffin during his funeral at Protea South Hall in Soweto. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips

“Soweto has been robbed. For how long will we be quiet and hiding ourselves. How much longer will we do nothing? It’s time for us to wake up.”

These were the words of Jozi FM chief executive Mpho Mhlongo to the hundreds of mourners who attended Mandla Hlatshwayo’s funeral on Saturday.

Hlatshwayo and his friend Oupa “Chom Chom” Duma were gunned down last Sunday at Meli’s Pub in Pimville Soweto, while trying to help women who were being robbed by gunmen.

Mhlongo said he was still in denial regarding what had happened.

“When I saw his body there on a Sunday night, I just did not want to believe it. I hoped they were just pulling a prank. His body was lying there cold, and not wearing any shoes,” he said.

“Mandla is my hero. He died a painful death. He is my hero because he stood up for what was right,” said Mhlongo.

According to Mhlongo, Mandla left a warm room where he was and went out to defend someone else, sacrificing his own life.

“How many of us men will do that? He left his comfort to defend someone irrespective of who was outside being robbed or abused,” he said.

Mourners at the funeral also said enough was enough and that it was time to call for action against woman and child abuse in Soweto.

The deaths of Hlatshwayo and Duma came at a time when there has been heightened media coverage of gruesome rapes and killings of women and children in South Africa.

This sparked debate on social media such as #MenAreTrash and #NotAllMenAreTrash.

However, both men have been hailed as heroes in the community for dying while protecting women.

Local celebrity and sexual violence activist Andile Gaelesiwe said it had been a sad year in South Africa if one looked at the statistics of the women and children raped in the country.

“The #MenAreTrash, we all know that that is not true, but I guess that for me it was created to start a conversation.”

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“In the same breath, we all want to see our brothers stand up because what is happening in South Africa is not South African,” she said.

“In fact, being a little girl growing up here, I know that we have had problems. We had apartheid and so on, and killings have always been there.”

“But the blatant murder and raping of children and burning of women that is something new as a rape survivor myself,” she said.

“I have been an activist since 2002, and when I started my foundation, it was always gruesome, but never to this level. We need all hands on deck, we need people to stop posting and discussing, and actually take to the streets,” Gaelesiwe said.

Mhlongo asked the men in the community to take a pledge where they would leave their comfort zone and be heard.

“It is of no use saying we are not trash when we do not put action with it. When women cry out and say men are trash, we need to accept it until we do something about it. Mandla was not trash. He proved it,” according to the Jozi FM CEO.

– The Star