Thursday, September 5, 2019 – 14:04
President Cyril Ramaphosa released a pre-recorded video address for the country, addressing the problems of gender-based violence – and xenophobic attacks. The full text of the President’s speech is published below.
“The nation is mourning the deaths of several women and girls who were murdered by men.
We know the names of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Leighandre Jegels, Janika Mallo, Ayakha Jiyane and her three little siblings, but we also grieve for many others who have died at the hands of men.
These killings have caused great pain and outrage because acts of such brutality have become all too common in our communities.
Violence against women has become more than a national crisis.
It is a crime against our common humanity.
Today I speak to you as your President, and as a citizen of our country.
But I also speak to you as a husband and a father to my daughters.
Like millions of men across this country, I am appalled at the war being waged on our sisters, our mothers, our wives, our partners and our daughters.
Women have every right to expect that they be free from harassment and violence on the streets, in schools and campuses, on buses, taxis and trains, at places of work and worship, and in their homes.
We have heard the calls of the women of our country for action and for justice.
The collective anger, the pain and the fear that these killings have caused must strengthen our resolve to end all forms of violence and abuse perpetrated by men against women.
We have recorded progress on the implementation of the decisions of the Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence last year.
Working together, government and civil society formations, have already made much progress towards establishing and resourcing a national machinery to coordinate our campaign against gender-based violence.
We are reviewing laws on domestic violence and sexual offences to prioritise the needs and interests of survivors.
We have established 92 dedicated Sexual Offences Courts since 2013, with a further 11 to be opened this financial year to improve conviction rates and provide comprehensive and appropriate support services to ensure survivors of sexual offences are not subject to further trauma.
I wish to enumerate some of the additional measures we will be taking.
We are going to overhaul and modernise the national register of gender-based violence offenders provided for in the Sexual Offences Act to ensure it is effective in combating gender-based violence.
This National Register of Offenders will list all the men convicted of acts of violence against women and children.
I will ask Parliament to consider amending the legislation to make the register public.
I will propose to Cabinet that all crimes against women and children should attract harsher minimum sentences.
We agree with the women of our country that the state should oppose bail and parole for perpetrators of rape and murder against women and children.
Many women’s organisations have complained that there aren’t enough rehabilitation programmes in our prisons.
These programmes will be increased and reconfigured to reduce the number of repeat offenders.
All gender-based violence cases that have been closed or that were not properly investigated must be reviewed.
We will strengthen the emergency teams at a provincial level – which bring together the police, social development, health, justice and education – to continue providing rapid and comprehensive responses to all forms of violence against women.
These emergency response teams will focus in particular on violence directed at women, children and other marginalised groups including the LGBTQIA Plus community and people with disabilities.
We will address other systemic challenges such as the backlog of cases, delays in DNA testing and the availability of rape test kits in our police stations.
We will use every means at the disposal of the state – from the police service to the justice system, from social development programmes to our school curriculum – to strengthen all parts of our national response to gender-based violence.
We will implement a national multi-faceted plan to prevent gender-based violence through school programmes, community initiatives and workplace policies.
The Minister of Finance will be asked to allocate additional funding to the national machinery to coordinate our campaign against gender-based violence.
The women of our country are calling for emergency measures to end this violence.
I will therefore be asking Parliament to discuss and identify urgent interventions that can be implemented without delay.
Violence against women is not a women’s problem.
It is not a problem of what a woman said or did, what a woman was wearing, or where she was walking.
Violence against women is a men’s problem.
It is men who rape and kill women.
There is therefore an obligation on the men of this country to act to end such behaviour and such crimes.
As men, let us speak out.
We must not look away.
We must face gender-based violence head-on.
Let us, as families, make sure that we raise boys to respect women, to respect themselves, to value life and human dignity.
We acknowledge the men and boys who have heeded the call to respect women by participating in the Takuwani Riine Men and Boys Campaign. We also acknowledge others who are championing change towards a South Africa that is free of violence by 2030.
As South African men, let us take responsibility for our actions. We must treat the women and girls of our country with care and respect.
It is only when we do that that we will end violence against women and children.
Let us declare that enough is enough.”
Considering the level of concern across the nation, the President’s response seemed to only scratch the surface of the problem. It seems unlikely that it will satisfy the campaigners who took to the streets in the last few days – including marches to parliament and the World Economic Forum Africa, currently underway in Cape Town,
Earlier in the day when the President spoke to protesters in person outside the gates of parliament his comments were partly drowned out by chants for the reintroduction of the death penalty.
The recent spate of rapes, kidnappings and acts of brutality towards women and girls has led to a public outcry. Social media users have taken to online platforms to voice their fears, frustrations and concerns for the safety of women in the future. Tensions have been particularly high as the sudden series of attacks comes at the tail end of Women’s month.
A time when South Africans are reminded to honour the role of women in society. Public protests escalated after the body of a missing UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana was discovered, with some voices calling for the return of the death penalty. In response to protest action outside the World Economic Forum in Cape Town the president has promised to deliver a plan of action to address gender-based violence.