South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID), an inclusive and non-partisan women’s dialogue organisation, joins voices with those of other concerned South African women, men, youth, LGBTQIA + and other Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) persons who have come forward during the past days to respond with outrage, sadness and increasing horror at the escalating levels of gender-based violence, femicide and violence in our society.
The rape and murder of 19-year old University of Cape Town (UCT) student Uyinene Mrwetyana by a post office worker in his place of work, and the killing of East London boxing and karate champion Leighandre “Baby Lee” Jegels by her boyfriend, a police tactical response team officer, are but two of at least 30 killings of women during August, women’s month in South Africa. During this same month, Meghan Cremer was kidnapped and murdered by a suspect known to the victim’s family, and Lynette Volschenk was murdered and mutilated by a man who lived in the same apartment building.
We acknowledge that our beloved country is a broken and unhealed society, comprised of a many broken families, wrestling with the indignities of a colonial and apartheid past, amidst increasing levels of unemployment, poverty and hunger, and seeking collaborative ways forward in dealing with the long shadows cast by a heritage of white supremacy, ongoing racism and patriarchy.
Once again the utter depravity and senseless brutality of many men towards women, and towards other African nationals is being foregrounded, and the tragic reality is that despite many mothers and fathers doing the best they know how in terms of parenting and raising children, children’s needs are often neglected, in some of the critical areas of human development, which include the physical, emotional, mental, intellectual, social, cultural and spiritual.
Many young boys and men no longer “know what it feels like to be human”, and women and children are daily becoming more vulnerable to the anger, hatred and unchecked appetites of criminals, hijackers, kidnappers, rapists and murderers. Informed by the voices of more than 15 000 women over 16 years, SAWID supports a holistic, psycho-social solution that will address the many unsustainable economic, political and societal circumstances that severely compromise the quality of life experienced by millions of South Africans. We also acknowledge that many sustainable solutions to our complex challenges are emerging, both from within and without our country. One such effort is the progress made pre and post the President’s Summit on Gender Based Violence in November 2018, and the United Nations Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, (based on UN Security Council Resolution 1325) which will be launched on September 7, 2019, providing a framework on women, peace and security in the country.
It is clear that racism, sexism and patriarchy continue to cripple human potential, and sexual violence against men, women and children continue to afflict members of every culture in our society.
This dire situation is further exacerbated by a global economic framework that produces jobless growth, and creates ever-greater inequality and squalor, and by a political dispensation characterised by wide-spread corruption, continued political in-fighting and ineffective responses to articulated human need. The narrative of blaming other African nationals is not a useful one in a continent where so many South Africans in exile have been the beneficiaries of African hospitality in the diaspora.
Education and unlearning of both white supremacist notions and patriarchal ones will be required to move towards a society based on justice, tolerance and compassion.
SAWID urges all South Africans to urgently unite behind the “African equity” of Ubuntu, enshrined in our Bill of Rights, and to collaborate to create the kind of non-sexist, non-racist, South Africa that so many people sacrificed their lives to attain.
We support the call for Gender Based Violence to be named a national emergency, and demand resolute and accountable leadership on this matter. We also call for activism by all to create a loving and caring, “apartheid-reversing” society, with adequate law enforcement and a capable justice system that deals authoritatively with perpetrators.
Finally, we strongly support solutions that include the African Feminist values of self-love, the unlearning of harmful behaviours, African notions of restorative justice and a thorough exploration of the root causes of gender based violence and femicide, in order to prioritise sustainable and long-term solutions.