Corlia Olivier, mother of Anene Booysen, 17, who was gang-raped and murdered. Photo: Neil Baynes

Cape Town - The brutal gang rape and murder of a 17-year-old South African woman has shocked and saddened me, as it will have millions of South Africans.

It is hard to imagine the intense pain Anene Booysen’s family, friends and loved ones must be experiencing at this time of grief and loss. South Africa grieves with them. And we stand with them.

The time has come to ask the tough questions that, for too long, we as a society and Parliament have avoided. The reality is that we live in a deeply patriarchal and injured society where the rights of women are not respected.

There is a silent and deadly war being waged against the children and women of this country. We need all South Africans, whoever they are and wherever they live, to unite in the fight against it.

An attack on a child or woman is an attack on all of us, and everyone’s right to dignity and life.

Parliament – the people’s assembly – must be at the forefront of this battle. With this in mind, I will table, at the very first opportunity, a motion for debate on the ongoing scourge of violence against the children and women of South Africa.

This violence carries the risk of destroying every other achievement that makes South Africa a great country.

The National Assembly must ask these tough questions on behalf of the people we represent, irrespective of our party affiliation. And we must precisely define and implement the appropriate solutions. The time for talking is over.

I will also contact both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly to propose that Parliament looks into hosting and facilitating special public hearings.

This is so we can begin a national dialogue about South Africa’s rape and sexual violence crisis.

I will also, in a spirit of non-partisanship, be in direct contact with all political parties represented in the National Assembly to seek their support for this initiative. The fight against rape and the need to heal the deep wounds of our country are not, and cannot be, partisan issues.

They must seize all of our minds and hearts, and spur us to action now.

Last, I will also request that the intersectoral committee for the management of sexual offences matters, established in terms of the Sexual Offences Act, report swiftly to Parliament on the government’s detailed plan to deal with the rape crisis.

This can and must be expedited.

This committee consists of the director-general of Justice and Constitutional Development, the national commissioners of the SAPS and of Correctional Services, and the directors-general of Social Development and Health, as well as the national director of Public Prosecutions.

The fight against violence and crime in South Africa will not be an easy one. It will require that every single South African and institution, private or public, takes a stand against these unconscionable crimes. A national dialogue will enable us to begin this process.

And Parliament is best placed to make this a reality.

* Lindiwe Mazibuko is the DA’s Parliamentary Leader.

Cape Argus