Covid-19

PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS

Gender-based violence is South Africa’s second pandemic, says Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the country on Covid-19 infections, the further opening of the economy and the scourge of gender-based violence on 17 June 2020. (Photo: GCIS)

‘Over the past few weeks no fewer than 21 women and children have been murdered. Their killers thought they could silence them. But we will not forget them and we will speak for them where they cannot.’

 

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday night highlighted the seriousness of gender-based violence by reading the names of those who were killed in SA in the past two weeks. He also stressed that the country needs to take another look at its alcohol policy while announcing that the hair and beauty industry, part of the hospitality and conference sector, and restaurants will be allowed to open up on a date to be announced soon.

In a harrowing few minutes during his address to the nation on Wednesday night, Ramaphosa named the women and children who were raped and murdered in South Africa in the past two weeks.

“Over the past few weeks, no fewer than 21 women and children have been murdered. Their killers thought they could silence them. But we will not forget them and we will speak for them where they cannot.

“We will speak for Tshegofatso Pule, Naledi Phangindawo, Nompumelelo Tshaka, Nomfazi Gabada, Nwabisa Mgwandela, Altecia Kortjie and Lindelwa Peni, all young women who were killed by men. We will speak for the 89-year-old grandmother who was killed in an old age home in Queenstown, the 79-year-old grandmother who was killed in Brakpan and the elderly woman who was raped in KwaSwayimane in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We will speak for the innocent souls of Tshegofatso Pule’s unborn daughter who had already been given a name, six-year-old Raynecia Kortjie and the six-year-old child found dead in the veld in KwaZulu-Natal.

“They are not just statistics. They have names and they had families and friends. This evening, our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

Ramaphosa said that gender-based violence in South Africa should be considered as a second pandemic in the country – as serious as the coronavirus.

“As a country, we find ourselves in the midst of not one, but two, devastating epidemics. Although very different in their nature and cause, they can both be overcome – if we work together, if we each take personal responsibility for our actions and if we each take care of each other.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country – the killing of women and children by the men of our country.

“As a man, as a husband and as a father, I am appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and children of our country.

“At a time when the pandemic has left us all feeling vulnerable and uncertain, violence is being unleashed on women and children with a brutality that defies comprehension. These rapists and killers walk among us. They are in our communities. They are our fathers, our brothers, our sons and our friends; violent men with utterly no regard for the sanctity of human life.”

He commended the police for arrests made in most of the latest cases and expressed his “confidence” that the courts will send “the strongest of signals” during upcoming bail applications.

He said it was deeply disturbing that crimes against women and children were spiking as the lockdown regulations were eased.

“According to the police, violent crime – especially murders and attempted murders – has increased since alert Level 3 took effect on 1 June. Cases of abuse of women and children have also increased dramatically. We need to ask some very difficult questions of ourselves as a society.”

Ramaphosa added that the time has come to urgently re-examine the role alcohol abuse plays and made particular reference to violence, road accidents and reckless behaviour.

“Several international and domestic studies show clear linkages between alcohol abuse and gender-based violence. Of course, it is not alcohol that rapes or kills a woman or a child. Rather, it is the actions of violent men. But if alcohol intoxication is contributing to these crimes, then it must be addressed with urgency.”

Alcohol sales were banned during Level 4 and Level 5 of the national lockdown, with hospitals reporting sharp increases in trauma cases when the ban was partially lifted at the beginning of June.

“We need to draw the lessons from this lockdown and decide how we can protect our society from the abuse of alcohol. Certainly, we need to provide greater support to people with drinking problems, including through rehabilitation and treatment. We need to encourage responsible drinking, especially among young people. We need to be tough on liquor outlets that violate the terms of their licences and who sell alcohol to those [who are] under age. But we will also need to look at further, more drastic measures to curb the abuse of alcohol.”

With regards to the coronavirus pandemic, Ramaphosa said there were currently 80,412 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country, with 44,331 recoveries, 34,407 active cases and 1,674 deaths.

The number of confirmed cases had increased by close to 4,000 since the previous day.

He said he was greatly encouraged by the latest studies done at the University of Oxford in Britain that showed the use of the steroid dexamethasone can reduce deaths in seriously ill Covid-19 patients who are on ventilators or are oxygen-dependent, adding that the drug is also manufactured in South Africa and is widely available.

“The Department of Health and the Ministerial Advisory Committee have recommended that dexamethasone can be considered for use on patients on ventilators and on oxygen supply. We believe that this will improve our management of the disease among those who are most severely affected.”

He said the number of cases in the country was doubling every 12 days.

“Over the last few weeks, the number of infections has been rising rapidly. Nearly a third of all confirmed cases have been recorded in the last week alone and more than half of all confirmed cases have been recorded over the last two weeks.

“The Western Cape has so far been hardest hit by the disease, accounting for about 60% of infections across the country. While community transmission has remained low across most of the country for the past nine weeks, it has been rising rapidly in that province. There are indications that transmission in the Eastern Cape is now starting to rise and may just be a few weeks behind the Western Cape.”

He again urged people to take responsibility for protecting themselves and their communities by washing their hands regularly with soap and water, wearing a mask in public and practising social distancing.

Ramaphosa also announced the easing of restrictions in more sectors in the economy, including the hair and beauty industry, accommodation and conference facilities and restaurants, and the resumption of some sports on condition that strict prevention protocols be implemented. He said this meant more than 500,000 people will be able to return to work.

Ramaphosa said while extreme measures to slow down community transmission were needed, a nationwide lockdown could not be sustained indefinitely.

“With the move to alert Level 3 from the 1st of June, our prevention response is now largely focused on the simple everyday things that each of us can do to protect ourselves and our communities. It is about each of us taking personal responsibility, wherever we are and whoever we are, for curbing the spread of the disease. The power to defeat coronavirus is in our hands.”

He said screening for coronavirus symptoms had increased massively and the Department of Health was becoming more targeted in its testing; prioritising patients in hospitals, healthcare workers, vulnerable people like the elderly and hotspot areas. He said the government was using “every avenue available” to source supplies for testing and increase capacity and turnaround time.

“Among the initiatives that we have pursued together with other countries on our continent is the ground-breaking Africa Medical Supplies Portal. This is a single continental marketplace where African countries can access critical medical supplies, such as test kits, from suppliers and manufacturers in Africa and around the world in the necessary quantities and at competitive prices. This platform will complement the work that is being done to ensure that we have the medical equipment, personal protective equipment and hospital facilities to manage the anticipated increase in Covid-19 patients.”

He also announced the easing of restrictions in more sectors in the economy, including the hair and beauty industry, accommodation and conference facilities and restaurants, and the resumption of some sports on condition that strict prevention protocols be implemented. He said this meant more than 500,000 people will be able to return to work.

“Announcements will be made in due course to detail these measures and indicate the date from which these activities will be permitted. 

“It has been particularly important for us to open up personal care services, because this is an industry that predominantly employs women.

“The last three months have been particularly difficult for the millions of women who work as hairdressers, in spas, as therapists and technicians.

“Many of these businesses are owned by women and a source of income in the informal sector. Giving women the necessary support to become financially independent is the greatest of priorities, especially now.” 

The operation of Airbnbs remained prohibited, and there was no mention of when the ban on cigarettes and tobacco products will be lifted. DM

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