President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised a large scale restructuring of the criminal justice system to help deal with gender-based violence.
In a pre-recorded address broadcast to the country, Ramaphosa said the epidemic of gender-based violence and femicide has damaged the fabric of the country.
“These acts of violence have made us doubt our the foundation of our democratic society, our commitment to our democratic society,” he said.
Ramaphosa has made several assurances that police, prosecutors and the courts will be improved to act as a deterrent to murderers and rapists.
“I will propose to Cabinet that all crimes perpetrated against women and children should attract harsher minimum sentences. We agree that the state should oppose bail and parole for perpetrators of rape and murders of woman and children.”
“A life sentence must mean that a man who perpetrates violence against women, who rape and murder, that they are in prison for life,” he said.
During the televised address, Ramaphosa made no mention of growing calls to reintroduce the death penalty.
When collecting a memorandum from protesters outside Parliament earlier in the day, Ramaphosa’s words were drowned out by people, particularly young people, calling for the death penalty to be brought back, and he did comment on the issue at that time.
“All the messages on the placards you are holding, and I am internalising all of them. I know you are saying enough is enough. I agree with you, that indeed that enough is enough … I will be addressing that issue [of the death penalty]. I agree that the killing of women must be drawn to an end in South Africa,” he told about a thousand protestors.
The president also announced that he would travel to the Eastern Cape to pay his respects to the family of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana, whose rape and murder sparked calls for decisive action against men who perpetrate gender-based violence.
“We are going to draw a line in the sand to ensure that as a government we heighten the protection and the safety of women of our nation. We are going to be addressing the issues of harsher penalties,” he said.
Ramaphosa also noted men’s role in breaking down the patriarchy, in that they are a part of the problem.
“Violence against women is a man’s problem. It’s men who rape and kill woman. There’s an obligation on the men of this country to act and end such behaviour and such crimes. As men, let us speak up. Let us not look away … We must declare that enough is enough,” he said.
The president also addressed the country on recent incidents of xenophobic violence in Gauteng and parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
“No amount of anger and frustration can justify such acts of wanton destruction and criminality. There can be no excuse for attacks on the homes and businesses of foreign nationals, just [as] that there can be no excuse for xenophobia or any form of intolerance,” Ramaphosa said.