Uyinene Mrwetyana

Johannesburg - Following the violent deaths of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana, female boxing champion Leighandre ‘Baby Lee’ Jegels  and the killing of 14-year-old Janika Mallo in recent days, there have been mounting calls for gender-based violence to be declared a national state of emergency. 

The IFP, through its new party president Velenkosini Hlabisa, called for the country to reinstate the death penalty. It said it would table a motion in Parliament on Tuesday. South Africa abolished the death penalty in 1995 after a Constitutional Court ruling. The capital punishment had been suspended since February 1990, when the transition between Apartheid and the new dispensation began. 

The death penalty was found to be in conflict with the Constitution. 

On Monday, there has been an outpouring of fury on social media from Monday when the body of a woman who was found in Khayelitsha was confirmed to be that of Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old film and media student who went missing last Saturday when she went to collect a parcel at a Post Office branch in Claremont. 

Before Mrwetyana, female boxer Jegels was gunned down in front of her mother on Friday, allegedly by her police officer lover, who has since died after being involved in a head on collision. 

And On Sunday, Mallo was found raped and killed, with her head bashed in in her grandmother’s yard. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa broke his silence on Tuesday afternoon and said the recent murders showed women in South Africa were not safe, either in their homes or on the streets.

"This is a very dark period for us as a country. The assaults, rapes and murders of South African women are a stain on our national conscience," the president said.

"We have just commemorated Women’s Month. Sixty three years after the women of 1956 marched for the right to live in freedom, women in this country live in fear - not of the apartheid police but of their brothers, sons, fathers and uncles. We should all hang our heads in shame," said Ramaphosa.

In the opposition benches, Hlabisa said as a father himself, the recent killings had a ‘profound impact’ on him and his family and declared that the country was at a crossroads.

He said the IFP would on Tuesday retable a motion to debate the reinstatement of the death penalty, in the hope that it would deter heinous crimes. 

"The killing and raping of women who in fact make up the backbone of our society is unacceptable. The tragic rape and killing of 19-year-old UCT student, Uyinene Mrwetyana and 14-year-old Janika Mallo, who was raped and found with her head bashed-in in her grandmother's yard on Sunday is chilling and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms,” said Hlabisa. 

Hlabisa said harsher sentences had not deterred violence against vulnerable women, young girls and children. 

The moral degradation we see today must be addressed as we cannot allow ongoing attacks against women to take place in the South Africa we envisage for all of us to live in. Women and children must be and feel safe. 

“Indeed, we need a national discourse amongst all men who believe in good to stand up against the violence against women. In doing our part, the IFP will establish various Men’s Fora in all our party structures to drive a grassroots movement to address the root causes and create greater awareness on femicide and the role men play in fighting the scourge of violence,” he said.

Hlabisa said the party believed the death penalty would send out a strong message.

“The tragic killings must stop. The reinstatement of the death penalty will certainly send out a message that ‘if anyone dares to rape or take the life of a women or a child, justice will take theirs’,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Activate Change Drivers, a network of young leaders committed to driving change for public good, have called on the government to declare violence inflicted on women bodies as a national state of emergency. 

In a statement, they said the country was at war with its women.

“We call on leaders and all who call South Africa home to declare femicide a crime against society. Our country’s future is in the hands of diverse women whose lives are at risk every day. Protecting them is protecting our future. The struggle against femicide is not a woman’s issue, it is an issue affecting us all. 

“Just as we defeated apartheid we must defeat the anger and rage which threatens the social fabric of South Africa,” the body said.

Twitter on the death penalty

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