Seeking justice for Jesse

South Africa - Cape Town - 4 September 2019 - The University of the Western Cape (UWC) held a special commemoration ceremony for first-year student Jesse Hess, 19, who was found murdered last Friday along with her 85-year-old grandfather Chris at their home in Victoria Street, Parow. The main hall was packed to capacity with many students standing in corridors and outside the venue. After the ceremony dozens of students made their way to the administration block to speak to university staff and hand over a memorandum. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

The death of Jess Hess, 19, should be a rallying cry against gender-based violence those attending a memorial service for the murdered first year University of the Western Cape (UWC) theology student heard last week.

Ms Hess and her grandfather, Chris, 85, were found dead in their Victoria Street home in Parow on Friday August 31.

UWC staff and students paid their respects to Ms Hess at last Wednesday’s service at the Bellville campus.

Her brother, Darren Solomon, said: “As a child Jesse was always the middle child trying to ‘spark’ new ways to take centre stage at home. Whatever she did, I would try and imitate her – from acting, drama, debating and public speaking. She would always complain that I copied her, which I would always deny,” he said fighting back the tears.

“If it wasn’t for her doing all those things I wouldn’t be half the person I am today.”

Theology lecturer Dr Tiana Bosman said Ms Hess’ parents had told him she had dreamt of being famous one day.

“Her dreams have been stolen and shattered and turned into a nightmare. Her name may not have reached the headlines of her own doing as she would’ve wanted it, but Jesse’s death calls us to be and to remain unsettled. It should become contagious so that something can be done about gender-based violence. Her death is simply not OK.” 

Dr Mary Hames, the director of UWC’s Gender Equity Unit, said Ms Hess had the power to unite the campus.

People wearing black protested outside Parliament last Thursday against a wave of femicide that in recent weeks has claimed the lives of, among others, Ms Hess, Leighandra Jegels, Janika Mallo, Lynette Volschenk, Meghan Cremer and Uyinene Mrwetyana.

Ms Hess was laid to rest in Ravensmead on Saturday September 7.

Provincial police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut, said police had yet to establish a motive for the killing of Ms Hess and her grandfather. No arrests have been made.

“The finer aspects of our investigation cannot be disclosed at this stage,” he said.

About 70% of the 40 cases Goodwood police station sees each month are domestic-violence related, according to precinct spokesman, Captain Waynne Theunis.