Time for talk is over, says Ramaphosa on GBV and xenophobia

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering his speech to a joint sitting of Parliament on Wednesday. (Jan Gerber/News24)
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering his speech to a joint sitting of Parliament on Wednesday. (Jan Gerber/News24)

The government will reallocate R1.1bn in additional funding this financial year to dispel the "dark and heavy shadow" of gender-based violence that has been cast across the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday.

He was addressing members of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces after he called for an extraordinary joint sitting of both houses of Parliament.

"The women and children of this country are under siege," Ramaphosa said solemnly.

"There is a very violent and brutal war underway against the women of South Africa."

Last year, he said, 2 700 women and more than 1 000 children had died at the hands of another person, while the police received over 100 rape cases daily.

"This does not take into account the many more cases of rape and sexual assault that are not reported."

Ramaphosa said the human rights of others, a principle so many South Africans fought and died for, needed to be restored.

"Regardless of where we stand across the political divide, each of us here today recognises the reality that we are confronting a crisis of violence and intolerance.

"We have to act now before anger, hopelessness and despair engulfs our country."

Ramaphosa announced a five-point emergency plan to deal with gender-based violence.

The five points are:

  • Prevent gender-based violence;
  • Strengthen the criminal justice system;
  • Enhance the legal and policy framework;
  • Ensure adequate care, support and healing for victims of violence;
  • Improve the economic power of women.

"The extraordinary and immediate response that is needed to turn the tide against gender-based violence and femicide will need to be matched by a substantial and urgent reallocation of resources," Ramaphosa said.

"Cabinet this morning resolved to direct R1.1bn in additional funding in this financial year to the comprehensive response to gender-based violence."

He said violence against women was not a problem of women, but a problem of men.

Ramaphosa also turned to the spate of public violence, pointing out that it affected South Africans and foreign nationals alike.

"The recent public violence directed against both foreign nationals and South Africans exposed not only the levels of intolerance in our society, but also the extent to which so many of our people are frustrated about their social and economic conditions. 

"In responding to these acts of violence and criminality, we must address both the intolerance and the frustration.

"As we tackle racism and xenophobia, so too must we reinvigorate our efforts to grow an economy that is inclusive and build a state that is capable and developmental."

Ramaphosa announced he had requested the former presidents of Tanzania and Mozambique, Jakaya Kikwete and Joaquim Chissano, respectively, to lead a fact-finding mission to South Africa to examine the reasons for the recent violence.

They will then make recommendations to prevent such situations from occurring again. The government will also work with local and international humanitarian organisations as well as various diaspora forums on an initiative to tackle xenophobia and intolerance.

"There is no place for xenophobia in this country. Nor is there any place for criminality, whether it is committed by foreigners or locals," Ramaphosa said.

"From history, we know that there is a fine line between turning on foreigners and turning on each other.

"We must remove the cancers of gender-based violence and xenophobia, so that we can hold our heads up high among the community of nations.

"The time for talk is over."

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