Gender-based violence (GBV) activists say President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address (SONA) has given very little hope to addressing, and ending, the country’s surge in violence against women and children.
In his address on Thursday night Ramaphosa said: “Ending gender-based violence is imperative if we lay claim to being a society rooted in equality and non-sexism.
“When I launched the national strategic plan on gender-based violence in April last year I made a promise to the women and children of this country that we were going to strengthen the criminal justice system to prevent them being traumatised again, and to ensure that perpetrators face justice.”
Three key pieces of legislation were introduced in Parliament last year to make the criminal justice system more effective in combating gender-based violence.
Ramaphosa said government was making progress in reducing the backlog of gender-based violence cases.
The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children director Bernadine Bachar said: “The concept that gender-based violence will only end when all take responsibility to do so must underpin our every effort to eradicate it as a society going forward.
“Gender-based violence is a societal ill and as such it behoves all of us, as citizens, government departments and corporations, to do our part to address it head on.”
During the initial hard lockdown in March 2020, police announced that it recorded a staggering 2 300 calls in relation to GBV in the first week of lockdown alone.
By mid-June last year, 21 women and children had been killed by intimate partners in the country.
Earlier this month, Ramaphosa launched the private sector led gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) response fund.
Just one emblematic case was the murder of 28-year-old Tshegofatso Pule, who was reported missing in June last year and found four days later hanging from a tree and stabbed in Johannesburg. She was eight months pregnant.
SA Women Fight Back founder Bronwyn Litkie said: “We are always happy to see any positive moments which will help against South Africa’s second pandemic, which is GBV.
“However, there has been much talk over the past year regarding budgets, better victim support, mobile courts and DNA results being administered quicker for GBV cases and we have seen very little to no action in these regards. Action speaks louder than words.”
Anti-GBV group Ilitha Labantu’s spokesperson, Siyabulela Monakali said: “South Africa on paper has great legislation however the problem lays [sic] in the implementation of these laws, there is a greater need for the introduction of more stringent measures that will help improve the operations of the implementing agents such as the police and our judiciary so that we can see an improvement in the prosecution rate.”