Hundreds of marchers, many of them men, gathered at Pretoria’s Church Square to highlight the scourge of violence against women and children.
Also in attendance were Minister of Women and Children Bathabile Dlamini, Police Minister Bheki Cele, National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole, a number of deputy ministers including Mondli Gungubele, Enver Surty and Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimang, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, Deputy Speaker in Parliament Lechesa Tsenoli, and Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, who was also the MC for the day.
The event, organised by Government Communications and Information Systems (GCIS), religious leaders and other stakeholders, was held to highlight gender-based violence in the country.
Marchers gathered at Church Square before walking to the Union Buildings precinct.
“There will be order in our families, there will be order in our neighbourhoods,” Tsenoli said.
Msimang reminded all men at the gathering that they should stand up and say “not in our name”.
“Violence against women and children is a crime against humanity,” Dlamini said.
Cele said, “This day should be every day. When these women come battered and bruised at the police station don’t send them back to negotiate… because when you send them back you are sending them to their deaths. Don’t stay with a man that puts their finger in your face, next time they will put a knife in your heart. Walk away…”
He said the police force had brought hundreds of new police officers to the event so that they could hear about abuse of women and children and learn how to be better men.
Yusuf Abramjee of Safe South Africa said:
“Let’s make it 360 days of activism. We want to tell the perpetrators that we are coming for them.”
Abramjee asked law-enforcement agencies to arrest and convict the perpetrators of gender-based violence..
“We can’t have future leaders when we abuse our women and children,” said Kimberly Malope, a young motivational speaker. “We want to see our women and children thrive in our society.”
The church also presented a programme through Mpumlwana, who outlined what religious communities would do in their constituencies to end abuse of women and children.
“We are here because we men don’t know how to be proper men to our women. We have families in our churches who need our protection.”
Mpumlwana said religious communities would be involved in working together, not only against gender-based violence but also the sources of the violence, which include poverty.
“I’m here as a government employee and in a personal capacity to support,” said Willie Phalane, a GCIS employee. “We need to learn that abusing women and children is a crime.”
Also in attendance were the under-21 Blue Bulls rugby team.
“We are here with the whole under-21 Blue Bulls team,” said Zandre Kruger, 20, a member of the team.
“Lots of supporters of our team are women and children, so we are hoping to use our presence to influence our many supporters to spare a thought for abused women and children. I think the message is clear enough. Everyone can see this is an important initiative.”
“I’m here because I stand against women and child abuse,” said Tinyiko Hlabela, 43, from Johannesburg. “The country is not yet free when women and kids still suffer abuse at the hands of those who should be protecting them. I think the message has been made clear. It will certainly go far and wide.”
Moshere Ramogale, 43, said he was there “because I needed to stand up with other good men in the fight against the killing and abuse of women and children. What we need now as a country is to hold one anothers’ hands and raise a responsible nation. Whether it’s corruption or the abuse of women. No, not in my name.”
The gathering wrapped up at the Union Buildings where organisations in attendance stressed that “No Means No”.
Various activists against the abuse of women and children said the event had been a success, and that they were confident the message was made clear to all. The organisations also vowed to ensure continuity in the fight against abuse, and for law enforcement to play a more meaningful role. DM
Fist bumps are more hygienic than high fives or handshakes.