For two days activists have gathered outside Parliament demanding that the President address them. On Thursday, Cyril Ramaphosa finally acceded to their demands, addressing the crowd instead of delivering his planned speech at the World Economic Forum.
United in their anger and frustration, protesters – academics, activists, students, politicians, dressed in black – had over the past two days demanded that President Cyril Ramaphosa address them.
And when he finally made his way to address the thousands-strong crowd, he was greeted by protesters chanting “enough is enough!” and singing struggle song Senzeni Na? (What have we done?) The protesters, who sang the national anthem earlier during the morning, refused to do so before Ramaphosa addressed them.
As he began speaking, a hostile and heckling crowd booed him before settling down enough for Ramaphosa to speak.
“I stand with a deep sense of feeling. I know what all of you are going through, yes I know,” said the President through boos and shouts of “enough is enough”.
The President said “I can see all your messages on the placards you are holding and I am internalising all of them” at which point, someone in the crowd shouted, “where is yours?”
“I know all of you are saying enough is enough and I agree with all of you that indeed, enough is enough. In exactly one hour I will be addressing the entire nation on the measures that we are going to take. I will be addressing on the measures we are now embarking on,” added the President.
Ramaphosa said the announcement would touch on a potential state of emergency on rape, bail for rape and murder accused persons, no granting of parole conditions for rape and murder accused.
The President was due to speak at a session at the World Economic Forum on Africa at the nearby Cape Town International Convention Centre but came to address the crowd instead. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni spoke on his behalf at WEF.
More than two hours after he first addressed the protesters, Ramaphosa was yet to address the nation.
Earlier in the protest on Thursday morning, Lucinda Evans, a community activist from Lavender Hill, spoke outside the Louis Botha statue at Parliament as several thousand people from across the city gathered to demand action on violence against women.
Evans asked that bail be denied for the rape accused, citing how easy it was for bail to be given to perpetrators. She gave the example of the recent case in which a 57-year-old man accused of the rape of a one-year-old baby was released on bail. Evans said in some cases, bail was set for R1,000 for rape accused, which made her question whether that was the price for a women’s vagina.
She called on various institutions to respond better to gender-based violence by providing more support to shelters, more victim-friendly support services at police stations and improved training for police handling rape cases. Evans demanded that a stipend must be given to volunteers who are working within victim empowerment programmes.
Evans said men needed to be called out in various forms: “All the ministers who touch their PA’s arses, call them out. All the university professors who flirt with their students call them out!”
Evans urged for unity from UCT to Khayelitsha, from the mountains to Stellenbosch, saying women and men needed to start working together to eradicate violence against women. DM