South Africa’s President Vows Support to Stop Violence Against Women and Kids
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa vows full support of female protesters’ concerns during a public appearance on Wednesday when thousands came out to protest the rise of murders and violence against women.
As part of National Women’s Month in South Africa this month, the group Total Shutdown took to the streets to protest gender-based violence, bringing with them a memorandum of demands. South Africa’s rate of murder against women is five times higher than the global rate, with murders averaging 9.6 per 100,000 women.
When Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor was sent to accept the memo, Total Shutdown turned her away, remaining outside of the Union Buildings in Pretoria until the president himself arrived.
“Minister Naledi Pandor is sensitive to the issues being raised here,” Ramaphosa said to the gathered protesters. “I had asked her to receive the memo on my behalf and when I saw that this was not satisfactory, I made it a point that I come and offer my apology. I’m here not only to receive the memo, but out of respect.”
— Ügen Vos (@ugenvos) August 1, 2018
The choice of August 1 for these protests was deliberate. In South Africa, August is recognized as National Women’s Month, with the official Women’s Day celebrated on August 9. This date celebrates the anniversary of a march that took place in 1956. On that day, over 20,000 women took part in a demonstration against the South African government’s “pass laws”: legislation that required blacks to carry internal passports. They argued that these passports helped to maintain the status quo of Apartheid, and the segregationist practices that came with it.
Now, some 62 years later, Total Shutdown has also taken to the streets in search of righting an injustice.
On the Total Shutdown website, the organization states, “We have nothing to celebrate on 9 August. Every week, we receive multiple reports of women, children, and gender non-conforming people who have been brutally murdered, kidnapped, or abused, and there is no sense of urgency from our leaders to find ways in which society can tackle this violence. Women including the LGBTQIA+, children, and GNC people keep dying at the hands of men in South Africa, and something needs to be done.”
“The future is not female. The future is INTERSECTIONAL. The future is BLACK, the future is TRANS, the future is NON-BINARY, the future is LESBIAN womxn, the future is DISABLED womxn, the future is MUSLIM womxn, the future are SEX WORKERS. WE ARE THE FUTURE!”..#TheTotalShutdown
— #TheTotalShutdown (@WomenProtestSA) July 29, 2018
Total Shutdown’s list of demands include creating houses for women and others to escape abusive relationships, establishing a National Action Plan on Gender Based Violence, updating school curriculum to include information about gender-based violence and gender diversity, fair legal aid for victims, consistent enforcement of sentencing laws, and more.
Faced with the organization and its demands, President Ramaphosa offered words of encouragement and a dedication to change, saying, “As president, I have deep respect for the women of our country and I want to listen to the issues you raise. Not only should you be respected as women because you are in the majority, you deserve respect because you are human beings.”
After the president’s meeting with Total Shutdown, the government issued a statement fortifying many of the sentiments that Ramaphosa had expressed in person.
“We wish to reiterate our full support to all the initiatives that seek to highlight the violence against women and children,” read the statement.