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How Ramaphosa plans on addressing GBV, attacks on foreign nationals

Here are some of the key points from President Cyril Ramaphosa's nation address on gender-based violence and xenophobic attacks.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: @PresidencyZA/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa has been hit with a wave of sporadic unrests where Gauteng saw mass lootings and attacks on foreign and local-owned shops and students in the Western Cape protesting about gender-based violence (GBV), calling for government to act urgently on the nation-wide issue.

On Sunday night, unrest erupted in the Johannesburg CBD which saw businesses being ransacked by angry mobs.

The unrests spread to other parts of Gauteng, including in Ekurhuleni, the West Rand, Alexandra and Pretoria.

More than 400 suspects were arrested and charged with gang-related charges while at least 10 were confirmed dead in the Gauteng violence.

The continuing violence has cast a shadow over South Africa’s efforts to present itself as an investment destination of choice at the World Economic Forum on Africa taking place in Cape Town, where hundreds of demonstrators protesting against gender-based violence clashed with police on Wednesday.

Students and residents gathered at the gates of Parliament to vent their anger of gender violence, following recent murders of women in Cape Town, including that of 19-year-old University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana who was raped and murdered by a Kayelitsha man who is a Post Office worker.

Calls mounted for President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently address the ongoing cries and violence who addressed the nation on Thursday evening.

So, what did the president say?

HARSHER SENTENCING FOR GBV OFFENDERS:

Calling gender-based violence a crime against humanity, Ramaphosa said government was 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 subjected to further trauma.”

Ramaphosa also mentioned some of the extra measures government pledged to implement to address the issue:
“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,” he said.

Ramaphosa said he would propose to Parliament that all crimes against women and children should be given harsher 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.”

Ramaphosa called for all gender-based violence cases that have been closed or 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+ 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.”

‘NOT A WOMEN’S PROBLEM’

Ramaphosa highlighted that rape and sexual abuse was not a women’s problem but rather that of men.

“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.”

He said that we need to tackle the issue at grassroots by raising 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.”

NO EXCUSE FOR XENOPHOBIA, ANY FORM OF VIOLENCE

President Ramaphosa also addressed the ongoing scourge that saw shops owned by foreign nationals and locals being looted. At least 10 people were reportedly killed, two of whom were foreign nationals, while many reportedly suffered millions in damages. He said these attacks have affected the livelihoods of many.

“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,” he said.

Ramaphosa reminded South Africans that other countries supported the country when it went through times of struggle during apartheid and “worked together to destroy apartheid and overcome the divisions it created, where we feared each other, and our differences were exploited”.

“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.”

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