President Ramaphosa declares another pandemic on the rise in South Africa
by Jessica Arendse
Local residents of the Soweto township in Johannesburg discovered yet another body of a young woman who was found under a tree, three days ago. A week ago, a pregnant 28-year-old female was found hanging from a tree on the outskirts of Johannesburg. This brings to date, three women who were victims in a surge of violence gainst women in South Africa. The president of South Africa has described the recent findings as a "pandemic".
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President Cyril Ramaphosa stated in a nationwide television address on Wednesday: "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."
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 added as he continued reading out the names of the victims.
In an earlier statement by Ramaphosa on Saturday, he revealed that the killings is an indication that perpetrators have "descended to even greater depths of cruelty and callousness."
The rate of femicide in South Africa greatly surpasses that of any country in the world.
Last year's toll, according to police records, brings the total to more than 2,700 South African women, as well as 1,000 children being killed last year.
Ramaphosa informed the nation that around 51% of women in South Africa have experienced violence at the hands of their partners. Cases have risen since the ease down on some coronavirus lockdown restrictions in June.
The President further stated: "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."
Fatimata Moutloatse (founder of the Black Women Caucus) said South Africa had been battling with issues of gender violence, inequality, and unemployment and that the pandemic could push the nation to the brink.
"We have a crisis, and the lockdown restrictions are amplifying it, we want accountability' in September 2019," she added.
Ramaphosa further announced measures to tackle violence against women following the rape and murder of university student Uyinene Mrwetyana. Mrwetyana had been sexually assaulted and killed in a Cape Town post office. Her death awoke widespread protests and discussion surrounding gender violence.
Ramaphosa pledged R75 million in aid of strengthening the criminal justice system and provision for victim support.
He also called on lawmakers to process a series of amendments which entails minimum sentencing, and stiffer bail conditions for perpetrators. Only justice and the swift prosecution of cases will demonstrate that the government is committed to women's safety, and women's rights.
Ngaa Murombedzi, (activist fir Women and Men Against Child Abuse), said: "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."
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, (Minister for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities), said that the South African government cannot handle the crisis alone. Nkoana-Mashabane said that authorities need assistance from communities to end gender based 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," added Nkoana-Mashabane.
Kay Makhubela (Police spokesman) said that women need to report aggressive partners to the police.
"If people see there are signs of aggressiveness, and violence, they must report it to the police immediately, before incidents like this happen. When they see signs of danger, they must report it," Makhubela added.
Certain experts claim that a culture of domestic violence is deep-rooted in South Africa's apartheid era. Gareth Newham, (Head of the Justice and Violence Prevention program at the Institute of Security Studies) says that little change is to be expected as long as men hold onto patriarchal beliefs that suppress women.
"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," added Newman.