Updated: February 28, 2021
In a national address, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa condemned once again, xenophobic attacks that hit his country and triggered continent-wide condemnation and retaliation.
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My Fellow South Africans,
Our nation is in mourning and pain.
Over the past few days, our country has been deeply traumatised by acts of extreme violence perpetrated by men against women and children.
These acts of violence have made us doubt the very foundation of our democratic society, our commitment to human rights and human dignity, to equality, to peace and to justice.
As we have done before in times of great difficulty and strife, this is the time to come together as a nation to confront our problems directly.
The nation is mourning the deaths of several women and girls who were murdered by men.
We know the names of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Leighandre Jegels, Janika Mallo, Ayakha Jiyane and her three little siblings, but we also grieve for many others who have died at the hands of men.
These killings have caused great pain and outrage because acts of such brutality have become all too common in our communities.
Violence against women has become more than a national crisis.
It is a crime against our common humanity.
Today I speak to you as your President, and as a citizen of our country.
But I also speak to you as a husband and a father to my daughters.
Like millions of men across this country, I am appalled at the war being waged on our sisters, our mothers, our wives, our partners and our daughters.
Women have every right to expect that they be free from harassment and violence on the streets, in schools and campuses, on buses, taxis and trains, at places of work and worship, and in their homes.
We have heard the calls of the women of our country for action and for justice.
The collective anger, the pain and the fear that these killings have caused must strengthen our resolve to end all forms of violence and abuse perpetrated by men against women.
We have recorded progress on the implementation of the decisions of the Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence last year.
Working together, government and civil society formations, have already made much progress towards establishing and resourcing a national machinery to coordinate our campaign against gender-based violence.
We are reviewing laws on domestic violence and sexual offences to prioritise the needs and interests of survivors.
We have established 92 dedicated Sexual Offences Courts since 2013, with a further 11 to be opened this financial year to improve conviction rates and provide comprehensive and appropriate support services to ensure survivors of sexual offences are not subject to further trauma.
I wish to enumerate some of the additional measures we will be taking.
We are going to overhaul and modernise the national register of gender-based violence offenders provided for in the Sexual Offences Act to ensure it is effective in combating gender-based violence.
This National Register of Offenders will list all the men convicted of acts of violence against women and children.
I will ask Parliament to consider amending the legislation to make the register public.
I will propose to Cabinet that all crimes against women and children should attract harsher minimum sentences.
We agree with the women of our country that the state should oppose bail and parole for perpetrators of rape and murder against women and children.
Many women’s organisations have complained that there aren’t enough rehabilitation programmes in our prisons.
These programmes will be increased and reconfigured to reduce the number of repeat offenders.
All gender-based violence cases that have been closed or that were not properly investigated must be reviewed.
We will strengthen the emergency teams at a provincial level – which bring together the police, social development, health, justice and education – to continue providing rapid and comprehensive responses to all forms of violence against women.
These emergency response teams will focus in particular on violence directed at women, children and other marginalised groups including the LGBTQIA Plus community and people with disabilities.
We will address other systemic challenges such as the backlog of cases, delays in DNA testing and the availability of rape test kits in our police stations.
We will use every means at the disposal of the state – from the police service to the justice system, from social development programmes to our school curriculum – to strengthen all parts of our national response to gender-based violence.
We will implement a national multi-faceted plan to prevent gender-based violence through school programmes, community initiatives and workplace policies.
The Minister of Finance will be asked to allocate additional funding to the national machinery to coordinate our campaign against gender-based violence.
The women of our country are calling for emergency measures to end this violence.
I will therefore be asking Parliament to discuss and identify urgent interventions that can be implemented without delay.
Violence against women is not a women’s problem.
It is not a problem of what a woman said or did, what a woman was wearing, or where she was walking.
Violence against women is a men’s problem.
It is men who rape and kill women.
There is therefore an obligation on the men of this country to act to end such behaviour and such crimes.
As men, let us speak out.
We must not look away.
We must face gender-based violence head-on.
Let us, as families, make sure that we raise boys to respect women, to respect themselves, to value life and human dignity.
We acknowledge the men and boys who have heeded the call to respect women by participating in the Takuwani Riine Men and Boys Campaign. We also acknowledge others who are championing change towards a South Africa that is free of violence by 2030.
As South African men, let us take responsibility for our actions. We must treat the women and girls of our country with care and respect.
It is only when we do that that we will end violence against women and children.
Let us declare that enough is enough.
Fellow South Africans,
Over the past few days, our country has been deeply traumatised by acts of violence and criminality directed against foreign nationals and our own citizens.
As I speak to you, the debris of several days of violence and looting continues to litter many of the streets of our country.
People have lost their lives and many have been injured.
Families have been traumatised. Livelihoods have been destroyed.
We know that at least 10 people have been killed in this violence, two of whom were a foreign nationals.
No amount of anger and frustration and grievance can justify such acts of destruction and criminality.
There can be no excuse for the attacks on the homes and businesses of foreign nationals, just as there can be no excuse for xenophobia or any other form of intolerance.
Equally, there is no justification for the looting and destruction of businesses owned by South Africans.
The people from other countries on our continent stood with us in our struggle against apartheid.
We worked together to destroy apartheid and overcome the divisions it created, where we feared each other and our differences were exploited.
Thanks to the people of Africa, we have now achieved democracy and must use this platform to live together in harmony.
We value our relations with other African countries and need to work to strengthen political, social and trade ties if we are to develop our economy and those of our neighbours.
Where communities have genuine grievances these must be addressed through engagement and dialogue.
But where people act with criminal intent, irrespective of their nationality, we will not hesitate to act to uphold the law and ensure order and stability.
We commend our law enforcement and security agencies who have moved swiftly to restore stability in Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
The violence has largely subsided and police have increased reinforcements and visibility in priority areas to ensure the safety of all within South African borders.
The criminal justice system is ready to deal with perpetrators of violence, looting and lawlessness.
Since Sunday, 423 people have been arrested for violence-related offences in Gauteng and 21 suspects have been arrested in relation to truck violence in KwaZulu-Natal.
I am calling upon each one of us to desist from fueling a climate of fear and confusion.
We must act responsibly and stop disseminating fake videos, photographs and messages, especially on social media, with an intention of negatively portraying our country and its people.
This misinformation is also being disseminated in neighbouring countries and throughout the world, causing panic and putting lives in danger.
Let us not be misled.
Let us not be provoked by those who want to sow mistrust and fuel conflict.
This is a time for calm.
It is a time for all of us who live in this country to confront our challenges directly and earnestly, not through violence, but through dialogue.
We call on all religious leaders and communities to lead the country in prayer and contemplation this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
In all churches, mosques, synagogues and temples, let us humble ourselves and bring healing to our nation.
As a nation, we have endured moments of uncertainty before.
As a nation, we have overcome conflict and achieved peace.
Now, as a nation, let us once again work together to end the violence that has engulfed our streets, and damaged our economy and confidence in our country.
Let us once again, as a nation, work together to end the violence against the women and children of our country.
Let us build the South Africa we want, and which all our people so richly deserve.
I thank you.