Take a stand

Friday, September 6, 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated calls for all South Africans to take an unequivocal stand against gender-based violence.

The President, along with Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane and some Cabinet Ministers, visited the family of slain UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana in Buffalo City, Eastern Cape, on Friday.

Speaking after a short prayer service at the Mrwetyana home, President Ramaphosa said government is working around the clock to implement solutions to the crisis facing South Africa.

"The death of your daughter and other women in the country is something that has gotten us to look at gender-based violence in a way that [makes it clear] we have reached a watershed moment.

“Men must take responsibility and stop treating women as objects. We must also say we have reached a turning point as a nation in dealing with gender-based violence," President Ramaphosa said.

Government will continue to work with faith-based organisations, community-based organisations and professional bodies to weed out gender-based violence.

Mrwetyana was reported missing a week ago. According to media reports, she had gone to the Clareinch Post Office to collect a package and was told that the electricity was out and she should return later.

When she returned, the accused was the only person there. He apparently lured her in, offering to help locate her package, but instead of helping her, he attacked and raped her.

The 42-year-old man, who worked at the Post Office, has been arrested in connection with the death of Mrwetyana and faces charges of rape, murder and defeating the ends of justice.

Three private investigators joined police in an extensive search for the first year film and media student, along with distraught friends and fellow students.

Earlier this week, Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams ordered an investigation into how the alleged murderer was employed at the Post Office, despite a criminal conviction against him.

On Thursday, the President addressed the nation in a televised message, where he revealed government's plan to tackle gender-based violence. 

National Register of Sex Offenders

The National Register for Sex Offenders is set to be overhauled and modernised in line with the Sexual Offences Act to ensure that it is effective in combating gender-based violence.

The plan is to have a national register of offenders that will list all men convicted of acts of violence against women and children. 

The President has also committed to ask Parliament to consider amending legislation to make the register public.

Harsher minimum sentences

The President said he 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,” said the President.

In light of complaints by many women’s organisations that there aren’t enough rehabilitation programmes in the country’s prisons, the President committed to increase and reconfigure these programmes 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,” said the President.

Emergency response teams

At a provincial level, government will strengthen emergency teams, which bring together the police, social development, health, justice and education.

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.

Systemic challenges such as the backlog of cases, delays in DNA testing and the availability of rape test kits in police stations will also get priority in government’s agenda.

Additional funds for GBV campaign

President Ramaphosa said government will implement a national multi-faceted plan to prevent gender-based violence through school programmes, community initiatives and workplace policies.

Additionally, the President will request the Finance Minister to allocate additional funding to the campaign against gender-based violence.

The President said he would ask Parliament to discuss and identify urgent interventions that can be implemented without delay. 

Violence against women is a men’s problem 

In Thursday’s address, President Ramaphosa stressed that violence against women is a men’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,” he said.

He said men must 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.”

“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,” President Ramaphosa said. – SAnews.gov.za