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'A dark and shameful week for us as a nation': Ramaphosa condemns surge in gender-based violence

Tshegofatso Pule was found murdered and hanging from a tree in the veld in Roodepoort on Monday.
Tshegofatso Pule was found murdered and hanging from a tree in the veld in Roodepoort on Monday.
Image: Supplied

President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned the surge in murders of women and children in SA, saying it has been “a dark and shameful week for us as a nation”.

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

This comes as the body of a young woman was found dumped under a tree in Dobsonville, Soweto, on Friday. It also comes amid a chorus of calls for the government to take greater action against gender-based violence.  

Ramaphosa said that since the country had entered coronavirus alert level 3, 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.

“We note with disgust that at a time when the country is facing the gravest of threats from the pandemic, violent men are taking advantage of the eased restrictions on movement to attack women and children.

“As we still struggle to come to terms with the brutality inflicted on Tshegofatso Pule, Naledi Phangindawo, Nompumelelo Tshaka and other women in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal whose bodies were found dumped this week, another woman has lost her life,” Ramaphosa added.

The manner in which these defenceless women were killed pointed to an “unconscionable level of barbarism and lack of humanity”,  he said.

Tshegofatso Pule, who was eight months pregnant, was found stabbed to death and hanging from a tree in an open veld last week. It is suspected that one of the murdered Eastern Cape women was a victim of a mob killing.

Authorities in KwaZulu-Natal said this week an elderly woman was raped and a child was found dead in a field, and two young women were shot dead.

“According to the SAPS there has been an increase in violent crime, especially murders, since we entered alert level 3. We need to understand what factors are fuelling this terrible trend and, as society as a whole, address them urgently,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa said he was deploying ministers and deputy ministers to meet community leaders in all districts around the country as part of national efforts to combat Covid-19. During these visits they would engage with communities on this upsurge in gender-based violence so that everyone could work together to prevent the killing of women.

The president noted that SA had among the highest levels of intimate partner violence in the world, and that as many as 51% of SA women had experienced violence at the hands of someone with whom they were in a relationship.

“In far too many cases of gender-based violence, the perpetrators are known to the victim, but they are also known to our communities. That is why we say this is a societal matter, and not a matter of law enforcement alone. Gender-based violence thrives in a climate of silence. With our silence, by looking the other way because we believe it is a personal or family matter, we become complicit in this most insidious of crimes,” Ramaphosa said.

Citing the case of 36-year-old Sibongiseni Gabada from Khayelitsha who was found murdered last month, the president said survivors of gender-based violence believed the criminal justice was failing them. Despite Gabada’s boyfriend allegedly confessing to the murder, the case against him was dropped, reportedly due to a lack of evidence.

“For public faith in the criminal justice system to be maintained, gender-based violence needs to be treated with the urgency it deserves by our communities working together with our police.

“I urge the SAPS to act swiftly to track down whoever was involved in these murders and ensure there is justice for the murdered women and children. I also urge our communities to end the culture of silence and speak up. In doing so you will be saving lives,” Ramaphosa said.