Minister for International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor
South Africa is set to become the 25th country in Africa to adopt a national action plan for women, peace and security. Its importance was discussed at a meeting at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation on Friday.

The country had not developed such a plan that speaks to its international engagements and domestic challenges. To date, 79 countries have developed plans and now South Africa and Namibia are the latest African countries to do so.

“This is an important landmark in the search for peace,” said Minister for International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor.

“We will also put forward a resolution on women, peace and security during our presidency of the UN Security Council in October.”

She said South Africa was well situated to provide much needed leadership on women, peace and security and could champion these issues in the UN Security Council and as the AU chairperson next year. It was in a position to strategically influence the implementation of the agenda in Africa and globally.

British High Commissioner Nigel Casey praised South Africa’s commitment to gender issues, saying: “It is a pleasure to sit with South Africa on the UN Security Council where it always makes its voice heard on gender issues in UN resolutions and operations.”

Yasmin Sooka, head of the Foundation for Human Rights, highlighted the extent to which civil society participated in the process of developing the plan, which she said began 10 years ago.

“We need to specify who ultimately is responsible for the implementation of the plan and we need a mechanism to hold government accountable. It requires political will to ensure its implementation,” Sooka said.

UN resident co-ordinator in the country Nardos Bekele-Thomas said the world would listen to South Africa as it had much to offer in terms of experience in conflict resolution and peace-building. “The issue I can’t stop hammering and which gives me restless nights, are the high levels of gender-based violence in South Africa, which are unacceptable.

“The number of murders is up, with an average of 56 taking place a day, and 19.3% of the victims are women and children.

“In 2017/18, an average of 110 rapes were recorded on a daily basis, and we know there is underreporting,” Thomas-Bekele said.

According to the Global Peace Index statistics for this year, South Africa has become more insecure with widespread violence and murders, akin to countries in conflict - 2930 women were murdered in 2017/18.

In response to these challenges, Pandor said: “We need to begin with ourselves. It is not solely government, but civil society which has a premier role to play.

“Our problems won’t be solved by women or government on their own, but we need a unity of purpose. When, as families, we are united in our streets at the community level and we care for each other and monitor safety, we will resolve our problem of violence.”

She said South Africa wanted to see more women as part of peace processes, but that women also need to be part of the legislative institutions after peace was achieved.

The national action plan provides an opportunity for South Africans to work together to chart a new dawn to realise a society free fr om fear. It is about a change in attitudes and mindsets and creating a safer South Africa for all its people.

* Shannon Ebrahim is the group foreign editor.