WATCH | Ramaphosa apologises to Malema after ANC MP claims he abused his wife


President Cyril Ramaphosa has apologised to both EFF leader Julius Malema and South Africa for what he described as the political back-and-forth of domestic abuse claims in Parliament which "trivialised" a national crisis.

On Thursday, Ramaphosa apologised for ANC MP Boy Mamabolo's accusation made in the House that EFF leader Julius Malema had beaten his wife, decrying the politicisation of gender-based violence.

Ramaphosa, who was replying to two days of debate on his State of the Nation Address (SONA), did not mention Mamabolo by name, but described the ongoing claims against Malema as "uncalled for".

Mamabolo first made the claims against Malema at last week's SONA, and then again on Tuesday at the SONA debate. Malema responded that he had never laid a hand on his wife, and then claimed Ramaphosa had beaten his late former wife Nomazizi Mtshotshisa, who died in 2008 at age 63.

The two have received severe criticism from different quarters of society over the claims of abuse, with the president, saying he had also received a number of letters regarding the incident.

At the end of his reply, Ramaphosa said that before Malema made the counter-allegation against him on Tuesday, he felt for Malema's wife, Mantoa Matlala-Malema, and his family.

"Honourable Malema, I must say, as the allegation was made against you, I felt for Mantoa, your wife. It was uncalled for, it was improper, it was not correct for it to be raised," he said to applause.

"If I can offer an apology to you about this, I would like to, because it was uncalled for, and Mantoa responded."

Ramaphosa was very brief in responding to the counter-claim made against him by Malema.

"You [Malema] have raised the issue of my late former wife, Nomazizi. She is not here to respond for herself," he said, not mentioning the matter again.

He then moved on to say that gender-based violence should not be politicised.

'Unjust, unnecessary, spine-chilling'

Earlier in his reply, he read a text he had received, which said the weaponisation of gender-based violence was an insult to millions of women who were victims.

"The mention of a person who has passed away yesterday evening was unjust, unnecessary and spine chilling, raw and inconsiderate. I am deeply saddened by the manner in which events unfolded," read Ramaphosa, who said the text succinctly described what had taken place in Parliament two days earlier.

The president also offered an apology to the country and asked parliamentarians to commit to never bringing up the issue to settle political scores.

"The statements made and the purpose they intended to serve were not really good. They undermine the resolve of this House that we demonstrated in the joint sitting that we had in September."

READ | SONA debate: MPs should apologise for using domestic violence for politicking - Lucas

The president also used the opportunity to give an update on the emergency response action plan undertaken last year to fight the scourge.

"We have improved access to justice for victims and survivors, the South African Police Service has confirmed that all police stations have sexual assault evidence collection kits. I have been to some of these in KwaZulu-Natal and was satisfied that they do indeed have the kits," said Ramaphosa.

He further said since announcing the action plan and working with civil society, a lot of progress had been made. These included backlogged cases being prioritised, cold cases being reopened, with around 60% of them being referred to senior public prosecutors.

The president also said 11 300 government personnel who worked with children and those with mental ailments had been vetted since the launch of the programme.

After Ramaphosa concluded, Malema rose to speak.

"I want to say to the president, my wife was insulted in front of the president during SONA and then five days later."

He added only when he said something, did anybody speak out.

At this point, ANC MPs yelled that he should sit down.

Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Amos Masondo told Malema to stop speaking and sit down, as the meeting was in the process of adjourning.

Malema, who on Tuesday declared that he is in charge in Parliament, sat down.

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