With soaring statistics in South Africa, gender-based violence (GBV) is a scourge that must be rooted out of society, instead of being politicised.
This was the view of advocacy group Sonke Gender Justice on Monday, following an outcry by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which has lodged a case of GBV, claiming its women MPs were assaulted last week, allegedly by the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS) – now a matter under investigation by National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Parliament has confirmed receiving a complaint from EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu, calling on Mapisa-Nqakula to conduct an investigation into allegations of GBV, allegedly committed by members of the PPS against MPs Babalwa Mathulelwa, Noluvuyo Tafeni and Naledi Chirwa.
The three were among EFF MPs who had to be removed from the chamber for displaying highly disruptive behaviour, which saw the debate on the Presidency budget vote delayed by over an hour.
The subsequent reply by President Cyril Ramaphosa had to be temporarily suspended the following day.
Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said: “The speaker has also been advised that at least two PPS personnel, Miss Khunjulwa Sinono and Mr Khaya Honey Vanqa, suffered abuse, assault and intimidation from the EFF MPs during their removal process.
“Miss Sinono, in particular, sustained an injury to her face after being allegedly assaulted by a male EFF MP. Both have since opened criminal cases with the police,” Mothapo said.
“The speaker is highly disturbed by these allegations and wishes to place it on the record that no stone will be left unturned in establishing all the factual circumstances around them.
“Gender-based violence – whether committed against female MPs or members of staff, must be condemned in the strongest terms.”
Responding to the GBV charges, Sonke Gender Justice coexecutive director Bafana Khumalo described the parliamentary incident as “deplorable”.
“We expect MPs, who are paid in public purse to represent societal views and concerns, to behave in an exemplary manner as leaders of society.
“No South African can be proud to have witnessed what happened in parliament – a matter we need to reexamine on how best the institution can function.
“Our country has developmental goals to fulfil and we can no longer afford to see taxpayers’ money being wasted in this manner,” Khumalo said.
“Gender-based violence is such an important issue in our society, to be used by politicians in scoring cheap political points to their advantage,” said Khumalo.
The incident, said Khumalo, required “self-reflection – a time to taking full responsibility than scoring political points”.
“As we already have a high ratio of GBV, MPs should be supporting our efforts to fight the scourge,” he said.
The EFF said it has opened a criminal case “against the tyrannical, bloodthirsty and factional speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, after she resolved to instruct thugs to barge into the National Assembly and assault MPs”.
EFF spokesperson Sinawo Tambo said: “In an overzealous attempt to sing for her supper, Mapisa-Nqakula relived the worst days of former speaker Baleka Mbete – defending Cyril Ramaphosa from scrutiny and accountability – through the use of brute force and the suppression of democratic engagement in parliament.”