The South African Federation of Trade Unions expresses its anger and disgust at the recent rapes and murders of women in the Western Cape – UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana, UWC student Jesse Hess, boxing champion Leighandre Jegels, 14-year-old Janika Mallo, Lynette Volschenk, and Meghan Cremer. While reeling with shock from these highly publicized cases the nation was further shocked by the killing of 4 siblings by their own father in Durban.
The federation sends its deepest condolences to their families, friends and all those who know them and demands that everything possible be done to bring their killers to justice. SAFTU welcome the swift arrest of Luyanda Botha who confessed to the killing of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Sibusiso Mpungose who allegedly killed the very kids depending on him for protection, the man who killed boxing champion Leighandre Jegels and the three who highjacked a six-year-old child in Vanderbijlpark.
What is pathetic is that these incidents happen just a day or so after the country has been celebrating women’s month and mobilising society against patriarchy and against women and children abuse. This underlines the importance of the decision taken by SAFTU and many other organisations to commit to 365 days of no violence against women and children.
These cases highlight that South Africa’s women and children are not safe to walk in the streets, are not safe in their homes and even in their workplaces and places of learning.
According to the Victims of Crime survey by StatsSA, 250 out of every 100 000 women were victims of sexual offences in 2016/17 compared to 120 out of every 100 000 men. In the same year the South African Police Service statistics showed that 80% of reported sexual offences were rape while Statistics SA estimated that 68,5% of the sexual offence’s victims were women in the same year. StatsSA estimate that 138 per 100 000 women get raped in our country, making us a “rape capital of the world”
South Africa remains a highly patriarchal society and all efforts to educate, mostly men, has so far not changed the reality as reflected by the surge of attacks directed at women and children.
Our country has a terrible culture of violence towards women that we must eradicate. We are currently the only country not at war, but we have 57 people brutally killed daily! South Africa is country at war with itself and its women.
A culture of impunity together with an ineffective judicial system are the driving forces of these horrific statistics mentioned above and the xenophobic attacks the country witnessed in the past few days, which SAFTU strongly condemns. Only 42% of the alleged perpetrators of violence and rape eventually appear in court, the rest are released. Moreover, less than a third (30%) of the suspects who do appear in court are found guilty.
According to the 2009 police statistics, the conviction rate for murder in this country was sitting at 13% and for rape is 11.5%. In 2014 estimates for the conviction rate was estimated to be as low as 10%.
Deterrence from crime will only come when criminals know they will be arrested and convicted when they commit any act of crime.
SAFTU is encouraged by the eruption of anger and demonstrations following the brutal killing of Uyinene Mrwetyana.
All this is unfolding despite that Chapter 12 of the National Development Plan (NDP) stipulates that “gender-based violence in South Africa is unacceptably high”. Far too little is being done by police and courts to identify, arrest and prosecute offenders and to protect women and children from assault, rape and murder.
Even when rapist perpetrators are brought to court, their victims can still be further punished by defence lawyers who ask offensive and intrusive questions to try to prove that they brought their suffering on themselves.
It is outrageous in a country which has ratified, without reservations, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, whose Protocol recognises that every woman has a right to dignity, respect and protection from all forms of violence, is doing so little to stop such shocking acts.
An indication of the government’s and SAPS’s warped priorities was the deployment of hundreds of armed police, dressed in protective clothing and carrying plastic riot shields outside the gates of parliament on 4 September 2019. They used stun guns and a water cannon to disperse those who had come to mourn and protest peacefully against these recent rapes and murders and arrested at least eight of them.
Trying to stop peaceful demonstrators from being seen by delegates to the World Economic Forum in Cape Town was much more important to government than putting the police and courts on a war footing stop violence against women! SAFTU demands the immediate and unconditional release of all the activists that were arrested.
We emphasize that the underlying problem we face is that there is still a culture of impunity, combined with patriarchy, chauvinism and racism, which we inherited from the days of colonialism and apartheid. Too many men feel justified in using violence to enforce their will against partners and children, and women in general, because they believe they have so little chance of their offence ending up in court or themselves landing in jail.
Violence against women is also linked to the continued denial of equal rights and opportunities for women. It is worth repeating the quote from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – that violence against women and girls — “the most visible sign of pervasive patriarchy and chauvinism… will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women become a reality”.
At work most women stay at the bottom of the wage scale and in the least secure positions, continuously sidelined and discriminated against in leadership positions at work, in community and political structures and in the trade unions.
In addition, many women workers are assaulted, sexually harassed, or offered promotion, or threatened with dismissal, in return for sexual favours. This is not only experienced at the workplace, as women workers also face threats of both physical and sexual violence on the journey to and from work and in the home. 56% of the female victims of murder are killed by their own partners.
There must be zero tolerance of all forms of violence and sexual harassment against women and children, fast tracking of the legal processes and the harshest possible sentences for those found guilty.
The federation also insists that this campaign must not be confined to 16 says of protest towards the end of the year but continue every day until we bring to an end all the abuse, assaults, rapes and murders which so many women and children suffer and which still go largely unpunished.
SAFTU fully endorse the march to the Sandton ICC on the 13 September calls on all workers both men and women to join the march en masse. SAFTU further endorse the call by the government for prayers throughout the weekend.