GBV stats show our priorities

How do you know the government really cares about an issue? It puts money behind its decisions. 

Since South Africa locked the country down to tackle Covid-19, we have conducted nearly 3.6-million tests. An entire new system for testing had to be built. On any given day, as many as 30 000 tests are being done.

Contrast this with our lead story this week. Our laboratories are sitting on a backlog of more than 30 000 DNA specimens. These are all needed to prosecute people for rape and other gender-based attacks. The government blames contracts and all sorts of administrative problems for the failure to clear this backlog. 

As we report, as a result, a mother has to live down the street from the family of the man who raped her five-year-old daughter. In the Eastern Cape, the family of Aviwe Wellem have to live without any closure, unsure of who raped and killed the 21-year-old a year ago. 

Her aunt tells us: “The police can’t tell us anything about the case because they can’t get the DNA results either. It’s a year now and I can’t understand why this is not a priority.” 

This means that thousands of gender-based violence cases will not progress. Thousands of men who are rapists and murderers will continue walking in our streets because DNA results are still not available. 

Every woman and child is affected by this.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa used his address to the nation on Covid to talk about gender-based violence as another pandemic, he set a verbal marker of intent. He did the same after the rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana last year. 

But when you look at these basic failures in something as mechanical — and therefore easy to solve — as testing, you get an insight into how little our system really takes violence against women seriously. 

We have come through yet another month ostensibly dedicated to women. Another month of speeches and promises. 

Ramaphosa and his colleague Bheki Cele speak at podiums about action that needs to be taken, yet the basic tools needed to put murderers and rapists behind bars have not been given to the justice system. 

Mothers want answers as to why their daughters were found butchered in bushes. Toddlers are scarred for life because men violated them. Women cannot walk at night fearing being raped and murdered while nobody ever gets closure. 

What chance do we have of tackling the deeper psychological and societal problems that drive violence against women if we cannot even do the basics?

Covid has shown what we can achieve if we really want to. 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Female cops sent for rape counselling

Brigadier Sifiso Cele denies the rape allegations, saying that they are part of a smear campaign and that criminal charges should have been opened if the accusations were true

Women are entitled to own land

Too many laws and customs in too many African countries still treat women as minors

New laws could prove to be a win for women’s rights activists

Three amendment Bills recently submitted to Parliament have the potential to change the legal landscape for sex offenders, especially the proposed duty to report and act on incidents of gender based violence

Hollowing of skills and defunding of Stats SA works for a failing state

Perhaps the government does want us to know how bad things really are

Review: The land is not to be outdone in ‘Dust’

Pieter du Plessis’s post-apocalyptic film throws up some interesting questions, but it also needs to work a little harder

Level one loading: Almost back to normal

President Cyril Ramaphosa announces South Africa will move to level one of lockdown on September 20 after nearly six months of restrictions on movement, trade, learning and socialising

Subscribers only

The shame of 40 000 missing education certificates

Graduates are being left in the lurch by a higher education department that is simply unable to deliver the crucial certificates proving their qualifications - in some cases dating back to 1992

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

More top stories

Joe Biden’s debate guests run the only Zimbabwean restaurant in...

A Zimbabwean restaurant feeding people in need formed an unlikely addition to Joe Biden’s election campaign

‘Veteran’s stripes’ vs ‘kind and fair’

This weekend the Democratic Alliance will choose between two starkly different visions for its future

The high road is in harm reduction

While the restriction of movement curtailed the health services for people who use drugs in some parts of the world, it propelled other countries into finding innovative ways to continue services, a new report reveals

Khaya Sithole: Tsakani Maluleke’s example – and challenge

Shattering the glass ceiling is not enough, the new auditor general must make ‘live’ audits the norm here in SA

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday