Pretoria - "Please do not let up. Remain as noisy as you are. Remain as radical as you are," President Cyril Ramaphosa told the #TotalShutdown protesters gathered at the Union Buildings on Wednesday.
"The messages need to be heard in the corridors of power…" Ramaphosa said as he received the memorandum of 24 demands from those who stayed behind to wait for the president after thousands marched through Pretoria earlier on Wednesday.
The president vowed to study the memorandum and address each issue raised.
The march to the Union Buildings in the capital was only of many held in cities across South Africa on Wednesday as women and gender non-conforming people protested against gender-based violence as part of the #TotalShutdown campaign.
As President, I have deep respect for the women of our country and I want to listen to the issues you raise. Not only should you be respected as women because you are in the majority, you deserve respect because you are human beings.— President Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) August 1, 2018
Earlier on, the crowd booed Minister Naledi Pandor when she came out to accept the memorandum. The women insisted on speaking directly with the president.
Police tried to disperse the group from the lawns of the Union Buildings as they waited for Ramaphosa. There were also reports of police mistreating the protesters. One woman said she was slapped and pushed by a police officer. "The policeman slapped me and pushed me on the tar. When I asked him he was assaulting me, he said to he was doing his job", she told the African News Agency.
Ramaphosa apologised for not being there to accept the memorandum but said he had been out of town but had come after he heard that the women did not want to hand over the memorandum to Pandor.
We are going to deal with the police officers severely, because not only is it the first day of #WomensMonth, but it is unacceptable for officers of the law to deal with women in the way that you describe. We will ensure that they are dealt with.— President Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) August 1, 2018
The president said: We feel the pain that you feel. I also feel the hurt and the anger that you feel. Let me apologise for the incidents that occurred here - how you were treated by the police officers. We are going to deal with those police officers."
As women, you have made a huge contribution to us as men and as a country. I support the call for a gathering where we can have a proper discussion on these issues and I would like to say that I respect you for the manner in which you have presented the memorandum to us.— President Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) August 1, 2018
Police Minister Bheki Cele, as well as other ministers and officials, were present as Ramaphosa received the memorandum.
"You have the right to enjoy your bodies… I really am deeply sorry that a number of women in our country have not enjoyed all their rights because they have been violated and abused… I hang my head in shame," the president said.IOL