President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that R1.1 billion will be redirected to be used in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.
Ramaphosa was addressing an urgent joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday afternoon.
“It is government’s intention that the funds appropriated for this programme will be raised from within the current budget allocation and will not require additional borrowing.”
The president also revealed that he convened all political party leaders on Wednesday morning to discuss the scourge of gender-based violence ahead of the joint sitting.
“There is a very violent and brutal war under way against the women of South Africa. Last year, 2 700 women and more than 1 000 children died at the hands of another person. Every single day the police receive over 100 cases of reported rape. This does not count the many more cases of rape and sexual assault that are not reported,” Ramaphosa said.
He announced that an emergency action plan would be implemented over the next six months to address the crisis with urgency.
“The plan strengthens existing measures and introduces new interventions in five principal areas: Firstly, how to prevent gender-based violence, secondly, how we should strengthen the criminal justice system, thirdly, the steps we should take to enhance the legal and policy framework, fourthly, what we should do to ensure adequate care, support and healing for victims of violence, and lastly measures to improve the economic power of women in South Africa.”
The steering committee, which will drive the action plan, will be located in the Presidency and will be co-chaired by civil society organisations and government.
“We affirm our position that the state should oppose bail for suspects charged with the rape and murder of women and children. Those who are found guilty of such crimes should not be eligible for parole. A life sentence must mean just that – life in prison.”
Ramaphosa also invited the private sector to join the fight by contributing to a gender-based violence and femicide fund.
Part of this contribution would be used to increase the number of Thuthuzela Centres – one-stop facilities for rape survivors – from 54 to 100 by the year 2025.
Turning his attention to the recent spate in public violence which led to the death of 12 people, the president said he had enlisted the help of leaders from outside the country.
“Earlier today, I spoke to former president Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and former president Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique to request them to lead a fact-finding mission to South Africa to examine the reasons for the recent violence. They would then make recommendations on the measures we can take to prevent such incidents from happening again. We are going to work with local and international humanitarian organisations as well as the various diaspora forums on an initiative to tackle xenophobia and intolerance. Such a campaign must be aimed at eradicating stereotypes, encouraging cross-cultural understanding and promoting social cohesion. There is no place for xenophobia in this country.”
Ramaphosa also referred to the demon of tribalism, saying it too had no place in society and that South Africans should refuse to allow it to become entrenched.
“I call upon this Parliament to consider these and other emergency measures without delay so that all government departments, agencies and civil society formations can begin with implementation. I call upon all our citizens to extend the hand of friendship to the immigrant community who just want to make a better life for themselves and their families. Many of them have fled war and persecution in their own countries, and see South Africa as a safe place for them and their children.”