SA’s second pandemic of 2020: gender-based violence

President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the scourge of gender-based violence a second pandemic which the country had to contend with in 2020.

A mourner holds a placard demanding justice for Tshegofatso Pule at her funeral in Meadowlands, Soweto. The murdered 28-year-old was laid to rest on 11 June 2020. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The year 2020 demanded government’s full attention on the fight against gender-based violence, with President Cyril Ramaphosa declaring it a second pandemic.

Fears that cases of abuse would escalate during the COVID-19 lockdown became a reality – with government making funds available to set up and equip shelters for women and children.

But the president has reiterated that gender-based violence cannot be fought by government alone.

With every announcement made by Ramaphosa, the message has been the same: “We must all play our part in supporting survivors of gender-based violence and respect the rights of women and children in our families and in our communities.”

READ: CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: 3 new GBV Bills seek to restore survivors' trust in justice

But it seems the call is falling on deaf ears.

In his July report, Police Minister Bheki Cele said incidents of rape had increased by 706 cases compared to the same time last year.

Cases of rape recorded a 1.7% increase, with over 53,000 cases in 2020 alone.

And police detected 1,638 more sexual offences than the previous year.

WATCH: Bheki Cele releases second quarter crime statistics

South Africa maintained its spot as the rape capital in the world, with about 132 incidents per 100,000 people.

BRUTAL MURDERS

Tshegofatso Pule, Naledi Phangindawo, Alexia Nyamadzawo, Nolundi Dondolo and many others were victims of gender-based violence and were brutally killed at the hands of abusers in 2020.

The murder of an 8-month pregnant Pule shocked the world after her body was found lynched to a tree in Florida.

Her funeral service was heart wrenching and her family distraught.

WATCH: Tshegofatso Pule laid to rest

Just 6 years old, Alexia Nyamadzawo’s story broke the hearts of many South Africans.

She was allegedly snatched from the back seat of her mother’s car and her body found in a sugar cane field in the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.

Shortly after, a suspect was arrested and the six-year-old's mother was charged for her murder.

"We suspected that the child had been kidnapped, but it became apparent that there were many cracks in the stories and that is when the mother was taken into custody for further questioning by detectives," said the police's Jay Naiker.

The Solidarity Fund, which was set up by the president at the start of the pandemic, allocated R18 million to efforts to tackle gender-based violence.

"The national shelter movement is a network of 78 shelters across the nine provinces. The Thuthuzela care centres led by the NPA has 55 centres across the nine provinces. We were able to scale up the gender-based violence command centre with an additional 40 workstations and laptops required to be able to cope with the surge in demand that the call centres were receiving. We have also scaled up communication efforts around gender-based violence," said the fund’s Nicola Gelombik.

Ramaphosa said it was men and not women who must change their behaviour to bring an end to gender-based violence.

JUSTICE DELAYED

While calls continue to grow for the full might of the law to be thrust on perpetrators of gender-based violence, it’s been year of wins and losses for the families of victims.

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing the world to come to a standstill, many operations and services in the country came to a halt, including the judiciary.

During the hard lockdown, only urgent cases were heard, which meant inevitable delays in many other matters.

Tshegofatso Pule's body was found hanging from a tree in Durban Deep in June after she went to visit her boyfriend.

Despite the lockdown, her family was hoping to have her case speedily dealt with and the man accused of brutally killing her - Muzikayise Malephane - tried in the high court.

Her uncle Tumisang Katake - who represented the killer of Karabo Mokoena - gave a moving speech at Pule's funeral.

"I now know how it feels. I now know what the family of Karabo went through. Yes, I did my job, but I now know how it feels. You come to me and say you have raped, go to hell! You come to me and say you have killed your girlfriend, go to hell!"

Pule’s aunt Pricilla Giwu made a peace offering to all South African men in the form of roses.

"We surrender! I want all the young women to dish out flowers to you men. To all the guys in blue uniforms, please treat us with courtesy when we are in pain. Empathise with us."

Police believe Malephane didn’t murder Pule alone.

The matter will return to court next year for pre-trial proceedings.

In another case, the family of Capricorn TVET college student Precious Ramabulana has lamented an entire year lost in her murder case.

The 21-year-old was found in her residence in Botlokwa in 2019. She had been stabbed 52 times.

Aubrey Manaka was arrested and charged for her rape and murder, but there have been delays in the case.

After an Eyewitness News exclusive interview with the mother of another victim of Manaka's, the State charged him for the rape of a 5-year-old.

WATCH: 'If Precious wasn't killed, would you have come back for our case?' - family of violated 5-year-old

However, police have struggled to gather evidence in the case, with the magistrate's patience wearing thin.

The matter is due to be set for trial in the Polokwane High Court early next year.

But some families were able to see justice served in 2020.

The family of slain University of Johannesburg student Palesa Madiba finally saw their daughter's killer found guilty - seven years later.

Madiba was killed by her friend’s uncle Dumisani Mkhwanazi. He is due back in court on 26 February for pre- sentencing proceedings.

ALSO READ: Palesa Madiba's family says justice has been served after killer found guilty

President Ramaphosa has called on South Africans to take a firm stand against the gender-based violence pandemic - warning that those who turned a blind eye to consider the consequences of their silence.

WATCH: 2020: The year that was

Download the EWN app to your iOS or Android device.