In an appeal posted on the party’s social media, EFF president Julius Malema called on supporters to donate online, saying that “all peace-loving South Africans, revolutionaries from the African continent and the diaspora are implored to finance the revolution”. (Photo by Laird Forbes/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have, since inception, been at the forefront of the war against gender-based violence (GBV), one of the most widespread human rights abuses around the world. In South Africa, GBV has reached crisis proportions and it is a scourge that must be rooted out of our society.
The United Nations reports that on average, one in three women globally have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, usually from an intimate partner. Statistics in South Africa also paint a grim picture as women and children are at risk for being victims. Recent quarterly crime statistics released by the South African Police Service show that 898 women were killed from January to March 2022. During these three months 10 818 women reported rapes, with a shocking 4 653 rapes taking place at the home of the rape victim or the home of the rapist.
These disturbing figures occur against the backdrop of a long list of legislation and policies enacted to address GBV that have proved inadequate in curbing the scourge of GBV as some of these rights have not been translated into reality. This is mainly due to the failure to implement policies and a lack of resources to support victims, which range from courts, police, shelters and professional workers.
Through our policies, anti-gender based violence mass actions and awareness campaigns which are routinely held across the country, the EFF works tirelessly to realise women’s liberation within the family, community and at the workplace. The EFF recognises that patriarchy and sexism are pervasive in our society and as such has been relentless in challenging toxic and abusive belief systems, while offering communities and individuals new ways of rendering safe spaces for women.
Through the establishment of the EFF gender-based violence help desk, interventions are provided for all GBV-related matters to protect the lives and dignity of women. The EFF is able to reach out to victims of GBV, accompanying women through a journey of healing by ensuring that justice is served for the most vulnerable of people in our society. The stark reality we currently face is that South Africa’s police and courts are failing our women.
Victims are hesitant to report to police, due to patriarchal attitudes held by many police officers, leading to secondary victimisation of GBV crimes and even lower rates of reporting. The EFF has been deliberate and uncompromising in its stance in demanding more accountability from the police in order to boost the fight against GBV.
We have therefore proposed that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate create a division that will focus on complaints against police who victimise and do not allow victims to open GBV cases. The unit should also investigate cases where police are complicit and are alleged to be the perpetrators of crimes against women and children. Police have to be trained on gender justice and there needs to be an establishment of specialised law enforcement units to deal with GBV-related crimes.
The EFF also advocates for harsher minimum sentences for all GBV-related crimes and for GBV and sexual crime cases be made schedule five offences that are most likely not to receive bail in court. One of the main challenges which we face in the war against GBV is that there is no crime termed “gender-based violence” under police crime data. This means GBV statistics fall under the “sexual offences” crime category, which includes a wide range of criminal offences such as assault, intimidation, rape or attempted murder.
We have also proposed that South Africa’s National Register of Sexual Offenders, go further to not only list those found guilty of certain sexual offences, but to also include those who have been accused of GBV offences and whose cases have not yet come before court. Through the EFF Manifesto, commitments are also made to introduce a special inspectorate in the department of labour to monitor, report on and enforce gender parity and equality in the workplace. Such measures will range from naming-and-shaming and heavy penalties to the withdrawal of trading licences in the case of repeat offenders.
As the EFF, we offer assistance in taking action against the police and remain at the forefront of raising awareness on the various measures available to women and children in order to protect themselves. It is evident that the police violate their statutory and constitutional duty to keep citizens safe.
Winning the war against GBV means celebrating women’s achievements and recognising the various challenges that persist in achieving gender equality. One of the main challenges is unemployment, which is a driving force of GBV. Research shows that men are more likely to be perpetrators of GBV when they are unemployed and feel pressure in the face of economic hardships, causing tensions and conflict in the household and possibly leading to violence. This is not to mean that unemployed men are violent, but rather that GBV thrives in a society such as ours, where economic and social reality does not match the promises laid out in the Constitution.
The EFF believes that GBV and related antisocial activities are reinforced and even sustained by the deplorable general conditions of our people. A key to female emancipation is the emancipation of all and there can be no women’s emancipation without economic emancipation. Addressing the root causes of GBV should become a permanent agenda rather than a reactive measure of the ruling party. The government must prioritise the pandemic on women and children.
The EFF remains the only viable machinery for advocating for the justice system to be improved so as to protect survivors from future vulnerabilities. This should be done by working with court officials and police officers so that they are adequately trained about GBV. We shall continue to ensure that the courts are not lenient towards perpetrators of violence. We shall continue to work tirelessly to hold the police, the ruling party and the minister of police accountable for their poor service delivery.
Poppy Mailola is the deputy secretary general of the Economic Freedom Fighters
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.