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Femicide: South Africa’s shame

Published Jun 15, 2020


Durban - As social media outrage against gender-based violence intensifies, gender activists have called on the government to act as they prepare to protest outside the Union Buildings today.

Fed up with the brutal killings of women and subsequent government inaction, gender organisations have called on South Africans to wear black in protest against the scourge.

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The #StopKillingWomen hashtag trended on social media this weekend, with more cases of gender-based violence being brought to the surface.

The latest incident that has shocked the country is the arrest of a man in Belhar, Cape Town, in connection with the double murder of a young mother, Altecia Kortjie, 27, and her daughter, Raynecia, 7.

To draw attention to violence against women, a list of more than 400 women who were killed at the hands of men, mainly their partners, went viral on social media. Ordinary people and gender organisations have also accused the government of a lack of political will to deal with the problem.

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Two marches have been planned to take place this morning in Gauteng - one at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, while another, the “Men and Boys’ March”, will take place in Soweto.

Sonke Gender Justice said women were not simply dying, they were being killed by men while the government lacked the political will “to end the massacre”.

The organisation’s senior strategic adviser, Bafana Khumalo, said South Africans did not protest against local problems with the same vigour that fuelled their protests on overseas matters.

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He was referring to the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that femicide in South Africa had not received the same powerful outcry.

“It is a serious matter that is exposing our sisters, daughters, wives and mothers to a vulnerable environment daily.

“Therefore, as men, we need to reflect quite seriously. We should be remarking more on brutal things that are happening here at home,” Khumalo said, adding that they were calling on society to say “enough is enough”.

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“The blood of South African women and children has been spilt for far too long. We now need to wake up and say this can no longer continue in our name.

“As men, we really need to examine ourselves. The perpetrators are our boys, fathers, brothers and friends, so the question is how do we hold each other accountable? The problem is we never act until it happens closer to home,” Khumalo said.

Regarding the murder of Kortjie and her daughter, a Western Cape SAPS spokesperson, Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana, said Belhar SAPS detectives were investigating a double murder case after the discovery of two bodies at a house in Belhar on Friday.

“The bodies of the victims, aged 27 and 7, believed to be a mother and her daughter, were discovered at about 4pm on Friday afternoon in a house in Commerce Street in Belhar.

“The 27-year-old woman had multiple stab wounds. The 7-year-old child was found dead on the bathroom floor. A 28-year-man was subsequently arrested and was expected to appear in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court on charges of murder on Monday (today), Rwexana said.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said gender-based violence was not an issue that could be solved by one entity.

Describing it as a societal problem, Cele said it needed to be addressed by the criminal justice system and non-governmental organisations, with communities supporting the cause.

Speaking during a brief interview on eNCA yesterday, Cele said that if society worked together, “we will have better results, rather than people pointing fingers at who is responsible. The criminal justice system, not just the police - the prosecution, the magistrates. For instance, you find that some people get bail. We should say no bail for those people, no parole.”

In an open letter to South African men, renowned business leader and motivational speaker Vusi Thembekwayo said that while some men might defend themselves as having never abused a woman, they knew of men who had done so, while they looked the other way, making them complicit.

“The only shared experience across suburbia and rural South Africa is abuse. Whether you are watching Real Housewives or Isibaya, you know abuse. Whether you frequent the golf course or the local shebeen, you know abuse. Physical hurt. Verbal harm. Emotional scars. Psychological traumas. Name it,” he said. Thembekwayo called on South African men to name and shame family members, friends and colleagues who “negotiate” women back into abusive relationships.

President Cyril Ramaphosa called on all South Africans to end the culture of silence around gender-based violence and report perpetrators to the police.

According to the president, since the country entered Covid-19 alert level 3 lockdown there had been a surge in gender-based violence and femicide.

“It is a dark and shameful week for us as a nation. Criminals have descended to even greater depths of cruelty and callousness. It simply cannot continue,” he said this weekend.

Ramaphosa said he had noted with disgust that at a time when the country was facing the gravest of threats from the pandemic, violent men were taking advantage of the eased restrictions on movement to attack women and children.

According to Ramaphosa, 51% of South African women had experienced violence at the hands of someone with whom they were in a relationship, placing the country among those with the highest levels of intimate partner violence in the world.

The spokesperson for the Department of Social Development in KwaZulu-Natal, Mhlabunzima Memela, said that based on reports from social workers, they believed the frustration and anxiety of being under lockdown had increased the number of violent attacks in households.

“People were panicking since the lockdown started and some people took out their anger on children or their partners,” he said.

“We also believe this is due to everyone being at home all day, all at once,” said Memela.

He said some of the measures implemented to deal with violence against women involved enlisting the help of traditional leaders and the deployment of social workers throughout the province.

The national Commissioner of Police, General Khehla John Sitole, condemned the recent spate of killings of women in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape. He labelled the incidents as “brutal and horrific”.

The Mercury

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