President Ramaphosa commits to address #TotalShutdown memo

Thursday, August 2, 2018

President Cyril Ramaphosa has committed his office to looking into all of the demands from the organisers of the #TotalShutdown march.

Demonstrators on Wednesday night handed over a memorandum of 24 demands at the culmination of the march aimed at registering gross unhappiness over femicide and gender based violence in the country.

In accepting the memorandum from the Pretoria leg of the #TotalShutdown march, the President assured demonstrators that government will look into the issues raised.

“We will look into this in-depth and come back to you. I have listened to everything you have had to say. You have demonstrated and raised your issues in a non-violent way. The Office of the President will ensure that all the issues raised are addressed,” said President Ramaphosa.

The President accepted the memorandum at the Union Buildings.

The nationwide march, which took place in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Free State, Eastern and Western Cape, called for a firmer stance and action on gender based violence.

Memoranda of demands were handed over to government, Parliament and other provincial and local structures.

Organisers of the march compiled a list of 24 demands, which include the introduction of an automated national registry for protection orders and the provision of shelters and interim housing to enable women to escape abusive relationships.

“We are going to very carefully consider each demand that you have made. We are going to pay close attention to all the issues you raise,” said the President.

The #TotalShutdown movement started on social media and mobilised women and members of the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual) to take a stand against all forms of violence.

The President noted that women, who experienced gender-based violence and femicide, have solutions which are highlighted in the memorandum.

He also spoke out against the treatment of the women by police officers.

“Let me apologise for what happened here earlier today, for how you were treated by police officers,” he said, adding that police officers would be dealt with severely.

“The behaviour of the police was unacceptable, especially at a time when the country is in the month of August, in which women are commemorated.

“As women, you have made a huge contribution to us as men and as a country. I support the call for a gathering where we can have a proper discussion on these issues and I would like to say that I respect you for the manner in which you have presented the memorandum to us,” said President Ramaphosa.

The President stressed that men must demonstrate that they respect, honour and support women.

“We must intensify the campaign against gender-based violence. Today’s demonstration must make a huge contribution to raising the level of consciousness amongst all of us,” he said.

Meanwhile, government thanked the organisers and all women who partook in the march, which kicked off in the Pretoria city centre, ending at the Union Buildings.

Prior to the memorandum being handed over to the President, Ramaphosa had delegated the Director General of the Presidency, Dr Cassius Lubisi and the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor, to receive the petition, as he was out of town.  

The organisers refused to hand over the petition and opted to wait for the President to return and receive the petition.

Supporting the fight against violence

In its statement on Wednesday night, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) reiterated its support to all initiatives that seek to highlight violence against women and children.

“As government, we wish to reiterate our full support to all the initiatives that seek to highlight the violence against women and children. We continue as government to work hard to fight to stop the scourge of violence within our society and importantly setting up structures that assist women in distress,” said the GCIS.

Government recently approved the amendment of the Criminal Procedure Act of 2017 to enable women to still be able to report any sexual violation even after twenty years.  

“Through the Department of Social Development, we continue to work with a number of NGOs [non-government organisations] in supporting the victims of violence and funding the Thuthuzela Centres to assist women in distress.  Our justice system continues to work hard in ensuring the perpetrators face the full might of law.”

The GCIS said Wednesday’s marches builds on from the “100Men March” that raised the awareness of gender based violence and made a call to all peace-loving men to play their part in stopping violence within their communities.

“The march takes place against the backdrop of the commemoration of Women’s Month, with women’s rights on the agenda. The spirit of the 1956 women, who fought against oppressive laws of apartheid, inspires the women of today who face challenges such as gender-based violence and economic emancipation, to rise and lend and hand in the fight against the abuse of women and children,” it said. -