MPs debate violence against women in half-empty House

2017-06-01 20:20
A half-empty National Assembly during the urgent debate on violence against women and children. (Paul Herman, News24)

A half-empty National Assembly during the urgent debate on violence against women and children. (Paul Herman, News24)

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Cape Town – An urgent debate on violence against women took place in a half-empty National Assembly on Thursday.

Only 11 Cabinet ministers and deputies were present, while MP’s numbers were also sparse following President Jacob Zuma's reply to the presidency’s budget debate earlier on Thursday.

Zuma and many of his Cabinet left immediately after his reply.

Also read: Jovial Zuma hits back at opposition

Opposition benches were fuller, but both DA leader Mmusi Maimane and EFF leaders Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu were absent.

DA MP Zak Mbhele, who requested the sitting, began with a personal story of how he lost his own mother to murder six-and-a-half years ago. The country’s women and children deserved to live in safe homes and walk in safe streets, he said.

"This debate is important because gender-based violence and domestic abuse are a violation of rights and it is a failure of the ANC government to protect women and children."

He called on the ministers of police, justice and women to account for the failures of the state in keeping the most vulnerable members of society safe.

Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize said family members of victims carried the pain over long periods of time, and it caused generational scars.

Mbhele's colleague Denise Robertson criticised Minister of Women in the Presidency Susan Shabangu for calling murder-victim Karabo Mokoena "weak" in an interview with eNCA last week.

"Women are not weak, minister, our government is weak," she said to applause from her caucus. Shabangu clarified her comment last week, saying she meant to say "vulnerable".

EFF MP Hlengiwe Hlophe said Shabangu and the ANC had failed the country and its women. Police were too slow in dealing with cases of women abuse and did not give them the priority they deserved.

‘Pornography contributing to sexual violence’

IFP MP Mkuleko Hlengwa used his three minutes to lead the House in prayer, to ask for protection for the country's women and children.

FF Plus Pieter Groenewald said men needed to respect themselves.

"If you have respect for yourself as a man, you will have respect for your women and your children."

Cope's Deidre Carter said school children had to be taught the value of the family unit. Boys needed to be sensitised to women's needs, she said.

ACDP Cheryllyn Dudley said pornography was contributing towards increased sexual violence against women.

"The more men view media where they treat women as objects rather than people, the more likely they will treat women as things."

Pornography use and acts of sexual aggression were directly related, according to Stockholm University research, she said.

"Just like child abuse, you don't want to make it 'better child abuse'. You want to stop the child abuse," she said, citing philosopher Noam Chomsky’s views on pornography.

The cultural environment that tolerated male dominance had to change, Agang SA MP Andries Plouamma said.

Nothing has changed

"What kind of society is this where babies are raped regularly? What type of society is this when a woman is raped we blame her clothes?"

DA MP Mike Waters said he had pulled out a 15-year-old speech of his to read, and found that nothing had changed. He criticised the ANC for shutting down government units and specialised courts that dealt with such cases 15 years ago. “The skills have evaporated,” he said.

Talkshops about the abuse of women and children had to end and action was needed.

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula continued his no-nonsense approach to the subject.

"We have no time to waste time. We have no time for politics. Enough is enough. Crime against the most vulnerable is our top priority."

Women would receive social assistance when they reported cases of abuse, he said.

"When?" EFF MPs shouted.

He finished with a message to men who hit their wives, girlfriends, or children.

"We are coming for you. Tsotsi, we are coming for you, weak, weak men."


Read more on:    parliament  |  abuse  |  crime

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