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Ramaphosa slams violent crimes against women and kids

Staff Reporter

President Cyril Ramaphosa says communities should not remain silent when they witness gender-based violence but should encourage those affected to report so the perpetrators are brought to book.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country – the killing of women and children by the men of our country,” Ramaphosa said Wednesday evening when he spoke on television to give an update on measures implemented by the government to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The speech seemed a detour from the subject at hand, but according to Ramaphosa, there has been a surge in violent crime – especially murders and attempted murders – since the country moved to alert Level 3 on June 1.

“Cases of abuse of women and children have also increased dramatically,” he said.

“We need to ask some very difficult questions of ourselves as a society.

“As a man, as a husband and as a father, I am appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and children of our country.”

The president said COVID-19 had presented the country with mammoth challenges and attacks on women and children only worsened the situation, hence they should be stopped.

“At a time when the pandemic has left us all feeling vulnerable and uncertain, violence is being unleashed on women and children with a brutality that defies comprehension,” he said.

“These rapists and killers walk among us. They are in our communities.

They are our fathers, our brothers, our sons and our friends; violent men with utterly no regard for the sanctity of human life.”

Ramaphosa said over the past few weeks no fewer than 21 women and children have been murdered.

“Their killers thought they could silence them. But we will not forget them and we will speak for them where they cannot,” he said.

“We will speak for Tshegofatso Pule, Naledi Phangindawo, Nompumelelo Tshaka, Nomfazi Gabada, Nwabisa Mgwandela, Altecia Kortjie and Lindelwa Peni, all young women who were killed by men.

“We will speak for the 89-year-old grandmother who was killed in an old age home in Queenstown, the 79-year-old grandmother who was killed in Brakpan and the elderly woman who was raped in KwaSwayimane in KwaZulu-Natal,” said the president as he listed some of the victims of gender-based violence.

He said the victims should not be treated as mere statistics as they have names, families and friends.

Ramaphosa assured women and children the criminal justice system will remain focused on gender-based violence cases.

He suggested that perpetrators of violence against women and children should receive sentences that fit the horrific crimes they commit.

“It is deeply disturbing that the spike in crimes against women and children has coincided with the easing of the coronavirus lockdown,” noted a concerned Ramaphosa.

He said the country needs to examine the effect of alcohol abuse not only on levels of violence, but also on road accidents and reckless behaviour.

He pointed out that it is not alcohol that rapes or kills women and children, but the actions of violent men.

“But if alcohol intoxication is contributing to these crimes, then it must be addressed with urgency,” Ramaphosa said.

“We need to draw the lessons from this lockdown and decide how we can protect our society from the abuse of alcohol.

“Certainly, we need to provide greater support to people with drinking problems, including through rehabilitation and treatment.

“We need to encourage responsible drinking, especially among young people.

“We need to be tough on liquor outlets that violate the terms of their licences and who sell alcohol to those under age.

“But we will also need to look at further, more drastic measures to curb the abuse of alcohol.”

He said if South Africa is to be serious about ending the violent crimes, people cannot afford to remain silent as the perpetrators are known because they live in the communities.

“By looking away, by discouraging victims from laying charges, by shaming women for their lifestyle choices or their style of dress, we become complicit in these crimes,” Ramaphosa said.

“I once again call on every single South African . . . to consider the consequence of their silence.

“As a country, we find ourselves in the midst of not one but two devastating epidemics.

“Although very different in their nature and cause, they can both be overcome – if we work together, if we each take personal responsibility for our actions and if we each take care of each other.”

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