'It is a problem of men': Ramaphosa, political parties make GBV focus of Women's Day

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President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: AP
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: AP
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa and political parties expressed their concern about gender-based violence on Women's Day.
  • Ramaphosa said it is not a problem of women; it is a men's problem.
  • Opposition parties blamed the government, singling out Police Minister Bheki Cele. 

The high level of gender-based violence was a stain on South Africa's Women's Day celebrations, said President Cyril Ramaphosa as he marked the day on Tuesday at the Silahla Sports Stadium in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal.

"Hardly a day goes by in this country without a report of women being attacked, being violated, and being killed by men," he said, in a copy of his speech distributed to the media.

"This cannot continue."

Ramaphosa said it shouldn't be seen as a women's problem, but a men's one.

"It is a problem of men with no respect for women, who feel they can do what they like with their girlfriends or partners because they buy them airtime or groceries.

"It is a problem of men who lack the maturity to accept the end of a relationship and hunt down their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends.

"It is a problem of men who think culture, custom and religion empower them to hit their wives, sisters, and daughters and to deprive them of their rights.

"It is a problem of men who hold positions of influence and authority who prey on women and take advantage of them."

Ramaphosa added that sexual assaults and other violent crimes were often connected to alcohol abuse.

READ | 'Justice for Rashieda': Hanover Park residents demand answers from Bheki Cele

He referred to the three laws passed earlier this year that "strengthen the fight against gender-based violence".

They would protect victims of domestic violence better, empower the police to enter premises without a warrant and arrest a suspect if necessary, and remove dangerous weapons from a suspect, he said. Complainants would be able to apply for protection orders online.

'We are stuck in a hell-loop'

Furthermore, there were new provisions that expanded the scope of the National Register of Sex Offenders and "place a legal responsibility on us all to report any sexual offences committed against vulnerable persons".

Bail conditions were also much stricter, and perpetrators would get harsher sentences.

Ramaphosa also called on women to speak out.

"Silence is the dark corner in which women and children are abused, beaten, raped and killed," he said.

"Silence is the dark cloud under which men allow their friends to ill-treat women, children, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community as a display of their manliness."

He said the second Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide would take place in November, and would be a "detailed assessment of the implementation of our National Strategic Plan and chart the way forward".

Gender-based violence was also top of mind for political parties. In its Women's Day statement, the ANC recognised that "gender-based violence and femicide is a pandemic, which contributes to women's insecurity and marginalisation". 

The governing party welcomed the adoption of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, and urged government to fast-track the plan and provide it with resources. It added that it would play its "role as a mass movement to advance its objectives".

The ANC said it welcomed "the introduction of the three GBV bills in Parliament to beef up the justice system's response to this issue". These are the already enacted laws – meaning they went through the Parliamentary process – that Ramaphosa referred to.

Siviwe Gwarube
DA spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube.
News24 Jan Gerber

DA national spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said a "war has been declared against the women of this country", following a march to the Phakamile Mabija police station in Kimberley.

"While the rest of the world is grappling with issues of gender representation or equal pay, we are stuck in a hell-loop, begging for our lives to be spared."

'It is on you, Mr President!'

She said Women's Day shouldn't be a GBV awareness day, but an opportunity to reflect on how much has been achieved in terms of gender equality.

"But how can we? When we have a police minister in Bheki Cele who considers a woman lucky to have escaped being gang raped?"

READ | DA wants Cele sacked for saying Krugersdorp victim 'lucky, if it is lucky' to be raped by only one man

Gwarube said Cele also presided over the police's DNA backlogs, which were denying justice to thousands of victims of rape, murder and violent crimes.

"Is it because ANC ministers do not have to worry about their safety on a daily basis? Because they are protected by the police 24/7, while millions of women in this country are living in a war zone?"

Gwarube also had a message for Ramaphosa: "For every woman that is raped and killed in this country, it is on you, Mr President! It is on you, because you protect a minister who is clearly out of touch and ill-suited for the job.

"It is on you because you can fix the broken SAPS; put more boots on the ground and fund crime fighting efforts. But you do not. Therefore, you are complicit.

"If the president and his Cabinet are serious about the safety of women in this country, then DNA sample backlogs must be cleared now!"

She said there was nothing to celebrate if women couldn't be safe in their homes and their communities.

EFF leader Julius Malema.
EFF leader Julius Malema.
Twitter @EFFSouthAfrica

At a Women's Day rally in Matatiele, Eastern Cape, EFF leader Julius Malema said gender-based violence should not be seen as "private matters".

"There is nothing private in gender-based violence. There is nothing private in rape," he said.

"We must expose all the abusers."

He decried the rape of elderly women.

"What is going through you when you attack the defenceless woman!" Yet you still find it in you to rape and molest and kill a defenceless old woman! What type of a sick society have we become that we have no souls for old and young."

Malema added that rape was not a cultural practice.

"So please, let us not promote the rape culture, in the name of culture!"

Erika Botha-Rossouw, chairperson of the FF Plus's women's committee, said in a statement that women's fundamental rights and freedoms were threatened by uncontrollably escalating gender-based violence.

She said, every year, the ANC paid lip service to this.

"South Africa became a country where even the police minister considers a woman lucky if she was only raped once."

South Africa urgently needed a national policy on gender-based violence and gender equality that was genuinely acted upon, Botha-Rossouw said.

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