The government-led crusade was spearheaded under the banner of the #100MenMarch to coincide with the centenary birthday celebrations of late president Nelson Mandela and political Struggle heroine Albertina Sisulu.
The 2.5km walk followed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call that everyone had to adopt the “Thuma Mina” or “send me” call to respond to different needs of society.
People from various sectors of society, such as government ministers, faith-based organisations, non-governmental groups, public servants, city residents and bikers converged on Kgosi Mampuru Street, and at 10am they thronged through the inner city, walking up Madiba Street to the southern lawn of the Union Buildings.
Onlookers emerged from office blocks and inner city flats to show their support.
Motorists hooted and bystanders took pictures and videos of the convoy of cars, people and bikes who wore T-shirts in different colours with #100MenMarch emblazoned across them.
At the Union Buildings, government ministers and deputy ministers took turns at the podium to voice their pledge against the scourge of violence against women and children, underpinned by the slogan “No is No!”
Police Minister Bheki Cele called on people to champion the message against abuse every day. He had strong words for police officers, warning them against a tendency to handle cases of abuse against women poorly.
Cele said: “When these woman come battered, bloodied and bruised to the police stations, don’t send them home to negotiate because next time she won’t come.
“By the time she doesn’t come to the police station again, she would be dead.
“Make sure that you don’t send her back because sending her back is like sending her to her death.”
He encouraged women to take care of themselves by leaving abusive relationships.
“Any man that points a finger at you turn around and walk away. Don’t ever stay with a man that puts his finger in your face.
“(The) next time he will put a knife in your heart. Make sure that you turn around and you leave; that is not a man, that’s an animal,” he said.
Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee of the Safer South Africa campaign echoed Cele’s words, saying: “Why do we have to wait for 16 days of activism in November and December?
“As the Minister of Police said, ‘Let’s make it 365 days of activism’.
“Today we are saying no to violence.
“Today we are saluting our government for taking a stand and having the inaugural #100MenMarch.”
He appealed to law enforcement authorities to arrest perpetrators and charge them. “We are also appealing to our criminal justice system to make sure that these perpetrators are brought to book.”
Together with other ministers, Cele signed a pledge and lit a “torch of hope” to symbolise their commitment to fight against the abuse of children and women.
Speaker after speaker said men had to desist from being women bashers.
The Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Mohamed Enver Surty, called on teachers to stop corporal punishment, and for bullying and other forms of violence to stop in the school environment.
Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga reminded the crowd that their right to security was enshrined in the constitution.
“The Bill of Rights as contained in the constitution is very clear. It says that your security and my security are key.”
Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, pledged that churches would work together to deal with women violence and poverty.
He denounced the bullying, killing and raping of women, lesbians, elderly women and women with albinism.
The deputy speaker of Parliament, Lechesa Tsenoli, said: “Programme director, there will be order in our families, in the workplace, in our neighbourhood, in our communities.
“We say ‘no means no’.”