'Despicable': Cyril Ramaphosa as schools are plundered, families abused

President Cyril Ramaphosa tells lawbreakers "the criminal justice system is not on leave."
President Cyril Ramaphosa tells lawbreakers "the criminal justice system is not on leave."
Image: Reuters/Hannah McKay

President Cyril Ramaphosa disclosed on Monday that 148 suspects have been arrested for crimes of gender-based violence since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown on March 27.

“It is disturbing that during a time of such immense difficulty for our country, women and girls are being terrorised inside their own homes, forcing them to make desperate calls for help,” he said.

“We are aware that the restrictions that have been placed on people’s movement and the confinement to their homes is a frustration for many. But there is no excuse, nor will there ever be any excuse, for violence — against women, children, the elderly, members of the LGBTQI+ community, foreign nationals, not against anyone.”

Ramaphosa said he had directed police minister Bheki Cele to ensure that Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences units are reinforced at police stations during the lockdown and beyond.

Vandalism of public property was also highlighted by the president.

“It is a great indictment of our society that dozens of schools have been burgled, trashed or burnt to the ground. When the lockdown is lifted and learning resumes, thousands of our children will have no school to return to, depriving them of the right to education.

“Eskom has also reported an increase in cable theft and vandalism of its infrastructure since the lockdown began, resulting in power supply interruptions and damage that will cost a considerable amount to repair.

“That public property is being vandalised while the entire country is experiencing hardship because of the lockdown, is a demonstration of utter disrespect and disregard for the majority of South Africans who are law-abiding.

“It is despicable that criminals are using this period of the lockdown as a cover to break the law at a time when our law-enforcement authorities are occupied with supporting the national effort to contain the pandemic.”

Ramaphosa called on communities to play their part in reporting criminal acts, “because they seldom take place in the absence of witnesses”.

“When communities allow themselves to be passive bystanders when they witness crime, they become party to the sabotage that ultimately disadvantages ourselves, our children and our communities.”

The might of the state would come down on lawbreakers, said Ramaphosa.

“I have a message for those callous criminals who think they can take advantage.

“The criminal justice system is not on leave. Our law enforcement authorities will deal with those who transgress the law. You will be arrested, you will be tried and you will be put behind bars.”