Ramaphosa personally addresses #TotalShutDown protesters, promises gender summit

SA President Cyril Ramaphosa (GCIS)
SA President Cyril Ramaphosa (GCIS)

President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived at the Union Buildings during the late hours of Wednesday to accept a memorandum from #TotalShutDown protesters who had marched to the buildings against gender-based violence. 

With him were his security advisor Charles Nqakula, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Minister of Police Bheki Cele, as well as other senior government leaders.

The president started by apologising to the group of marchers for having arrived so late to receive the memorandum.

This, after the marchers turned away Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor - who the president had sent to collect the memorandum on his behalf.

"Minister Naledi Pandor is sensitive to the issues being raised here. I had asked her to receive the memo on my behalf and when I saw that this was not satisfactory, I made it a point that I come and offer my apology. I'm here not only to receive the memo, but out of respect."

Ramaphosa listened attentively as the marchers read out their demands, word for word.

After the demands were read out, the president apologised for the way the police treated the marchers when they tried to remove them from the Union Buildings. He promised that the police would be dealt with "because not only is it the first day of #WomensMonth, but it is unacceptable for officers of the law to deal with women in the way that you describe".

"As president, I have deep respect for the women of our country and I want to listen to the issues you raise. Not only should you be respected as women because you are in the majority, you deserve respect because you are human beings."

"Men must demonstrate that they respect, honour and support women. We must intensify the campaign against gender-based violence. Today's demonstration must make a huge contribution to raising the level of consciousness amongst all of us."

The president, who said he would look into what protesters asked for "very, very carefully", promised a gender summit, which was one of the demands made.

Earlier on Wednesday, police and protesters taking part in the #TotalShutDown march clashed in Tshwane after officers forcibly tried to remove marchers blocking the road in front of the main entrance to the Union Buildings. 

A group of about 20 protesters had blocked the road, demanding to see the president.

About 2 000 women marched to the Union Buildings to protest against oppression, gender inequality and gender-based violence.

After the meeting with Ramaphosa, the government issued a statement thanking those who march to the Union Buildings.

"As government we wish to reiterate our full support to all the initiatives that seek to highlight the violence against women and children," the statement read.

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