As the body count of gender-based violence (GBV) victims continues to increase, President Cyril Ramaphosa has renewed his call on all South Africans to “end the culture of silence around gender-based violence”, and to report perpetrators to police.
In the latest in a spate of incidents since the country entered lockdown, the body of a young woman was found dumped under a tree in Dobsonville, Soweto on Friday.
Ramaphosa noted that since Level 3 of the country’s lockdown was implemented, a surge of deadly GBV incidents have occurred.
This was acknowledged by Police Minister Bheki Cele, who earlier this week linked an increase in reported deaths to the lifting of the ban on alcohol sales. Cele said at the moment, between 20 and 30 murder cases are being reported a day, but that this figure continues to climb, and includes the abuse of women and violence against women.
“Until Monday, 1 June, which is not an entirely dangerous day, for the first time since the lockdown, we got reports of 40 people killed. The next day there were 51 murders and there were 69 this past Sunday,” Cele said.
Ramaphosa said that this week’s GBV incidents spelled a “dark and shameful week for us as a nation”.
“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.”
President Ramaphosa lamented that South Africa had among the highest levels of intimate partner violence in the world, with more than half of the population’s women having experienced violence at the hands of someone with whom they are 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.
25-year-old Naledi Phangidawo was hacked to death by a man close to her, Mossel Bay police confirmed on Tuesday. A 34-year-old suspect has reportedly handed himself over to police.
On Monday morning, the body of eight months pregnant Tshegofatso Pule was found hanging from a tree in a veld near Roodepoort. She had been stabbed and murdered. 28-year-old Pule’s body was laid to rest on Thursday.
Earlier this week, and elderly woman was raped, and a child was found dead in a field. Two young women were also shot dead in the region.
Last week, a 36-year-old man was arrested after allegedly stabbing his 45-year-old girlfriend to death, and dumping her body in an open field in the Eastern Cape.
And last month, 36-year-old Sibongiseni Gabada from Khayelitsha was found murdered. Her boyfriend has since confessed to killing her, but the case against him was dropped, due to lack of evidence.
Ramaphosa emphasised that Gabada’s case, and many others, meant the survivors of GBV are losing faith in the criminal justice system.
He said that in order for public faith in the criminal justice system to be maintained, GBV must be treated with urgency by communities working with 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.
The President has urged communities to work with the police and report any tip-offs they may have to the Crime Stop Hotline on 08600 10111 or send an anonymous SMS to Crime Line at 32211, or to call the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre at 0800 428 428.