South Africa has another pandemic on its hands: gender violence
“As a man, as a husband, and as a father, I am appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and the children of our country,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa in a nationwide television address Wednesday.
More than 20 women and children have been murdered in South Africa in recent weeks, he added. “These women are not just statistics, they have names, they have families and friends,” he said as he read out the names of the victims.
“We note with disgust that at a time when the country is facing the gravest of threats from the pandemic, violent men are taking advantage of the eased restrictions on movement to attack women and children,” the President said.
Fatimata Moutloatse, founder of the Black Womxn Caucus said South Africa had been battling with issues of gender violence, inequality, and unemployment, and the pandemic could push the nation to the brink.
“We have a crisis, and the lockdown restrictions are amplifying it,” Moutloatse said.
‘We want accountability’
In September 2019, Ramaphosa announced measures to tackle violence against women following the rape and murder of university student Uyinene Mrwetyana in a string of femicide cases.
Only justice and the swift prosecution of cases will demonstrate that government commitment to women’s safety, women rights activist Ngaa Murombedzi, from advocacy group Women and Men Against Child Abuse, told CNN. “It’s not enough for the president to say we won’t tolerate violence. We want accountability. The government cannot just be saying they are taking a strong stance when they’re not acting. They need to put action with those words,” Murombedzi said.
But Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, says the South African government alone cannot tackle the crisis alone.
Nkoana-Mashabane said authorities also need the help of communities to end the silence around gender violence and expose abusers.
“We are aware that this fight is bigger than the government, and we need communities to helps us curb this epidemic. Communities can play a big role in curbing this epidemic by reporting incidents of abuse to local organizations, and South African Police Service (SAPS),” Nkoana-Mashabane said.
Police spokesman Kay Makhubela agrees.
Makhubela said women need to report aggressive partners to the police.
“If people see there are signs of aggressiveness and violence, they must report to the police before incidents like this happen. Immediately they see signs of danger, they must report it,” Makhubela told CNN.
But some experts say a culture of domestic violence is deep-rooted in South Africa’s apartheid era where women and children faced high levels of violence and that criminal justice and policing systems alone cannot fix the problems.
“Now, we need programs for men at their early childhood that educate them about different attitudes and they’ll see women as their equals and will be less likely to use violence at all when they grow up,” Newman said.
CNN’s Brent Swails and journalist Nyasha Chingono contributed to this report.