Opinionista Meokgo Matuba 15 January 2020

We must all act together to end gender-based violence

Even as the ANC gathered in Kimberley for its 8 January celebrations, reports of gender-based violence continued to stream in. It is our duty as a nation, not just the ruling party, to end this epidemic.

As the ANC was preparing for the January 8 celebrations, just before Christmas, media houses reported that the Hawks had rescued three women from a suspected human trafficking ring and a Kimberley woman was arrested for trying to recruit workers for sexual exploitation.

On Sunday, 12 January, the day after the January 8 statement had been read by President Cyril Ramaphosa, there were media reports of a Colville mother crying for help as she declared: “He is my son, but I fear him to death.” Her son is a violent drug addict and the mother claimed police weren’t doing anything to protect her. Colville is also in the Northern Cape.

These are just two of the stories coming from the province in which the ANC celebrated its 108th anniversary. These real, yet harrowing stories once again highlight the plight of women who are still fighting for their emancipation.

As women, we must therefore welcome the commitment made by the NEC of the ANC to continue to pursue a non-sexist society in which all forms of gender discrimination, oppression, exploitation and violence are eradicated. In fact, the 8 January statement went on to highlight that the pursuance of the non-sexist society entails “… the achievement of full gender equality in all areas of life, from the home to the workplace, from the economy to the sports field”.

Indeed, we echo and will ensure that, as we remember the Beijing Platform of Action for advancing women’s rights, the ANC-led government must ensure that we have effective policies and programmes in place to advance the empowerment of women.

Given the context of these two media reports, the NEC of the ANC recognised that gender-based violence and femicide is a national crisis and that all of us need to mobilise to end it. The ANC called upon all South Africans to rally around the National Strategic Plan against GBV developed jointly by the government and civil society.

But the 8 January statement also went as far as demanding that we confront discrimination, prejudice and violence directed against members of the LGBTQI+ community as well. As South Africans called upon to practice the precepts of the Constitution, we were encouraged to act in solidarity when we see injustice, to act individually and collectively to hold accountable those who discriminate and exclude.

Even more so, the statement noted that, “for far too long, the economy has excluded the overwhelming majority of the country’s population. The excluded majority are mostly black, female, young and rural.”

However, at the crux of the 8 January statement lies the need for unity in the ANC. The 8 January statement has always served as a tool to mobilise cadres of the mass democratic movement. It is, as it were, “the marching orders”, for ANC members for the year.

Our calls, goals and desires therefore to fight GBV, discrimination against women and children as well as members of the LGBTQI+ community are futile if there is no unity in the ANC. Yes, if anything, we should have this as our “unity of purpose”. Fighting GBV should unite members of the ANC.

The 8 January statement was clear that “… through a cohesive programme of action that places the needs and interests of the people above all other interests”, the ANC will be united.

To echo the statement, we must build a movement united in action and work to heal the divisions within the ANC, and the Tripartite Alliance. We must be able to end factional activity through cohesive programmes of action, such as the fight against violence against women and children.

As a result, as the statement went on to note, the leagues, ANC Women’s League, Youth League and Veterans’ League continue to play a pivotal role in this programme of action and pursuit of unity.

And we must also be able to call upon all communities, civil society, faith-based organisations and others to mobilise and confront violence against women, and children in all its forms. We cannot simply rely on ANC members. While the ANC Women’s League will certainly lead and champion this cause, all South Africans must be able to do their bit to ensure an end to this epidemic, which continues to blight the soul of our nation.

The fight against GBV must not be limited to 16 days of activism. As women, we must remain, every day of the year, at the forefront of struggles for equality and justice, to challenge the patriarchy in whatever form it takes, and to consistently remind our male counterparts of their shared responsibility to advance gender equality across South African society. DM

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