Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has expressed her outrage and concern at the relentless war waged on women and children.
This follows the 4th quarter crime statistics released by Police Minister, Bheki Cele, which painted a horrific picture of the extent of violence against women and children, particularly girls in South Africa.
The statistics released on Friday indicated that there is an increase in the number of contact crimes, particularly murders and sexual violence.
Cele echoed the sentiments expressed by Nkoana-Mashabane on the need to take decisive action by society to respond to the prevalence of violence in communities.
Nkoana-Mashabane has consistently indicated that the crimes reported by the media remain the tip of the iceberg on the violence experienced by women and children.
Nkoana-Mashabane noted that many researchers, academics, and activists working in the gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) sector put this figure much higher due to the increasing number of unsolved murder and assault cases still under investigation.
“Although the current statistics paint a horrific picture of violence in our homes and communities, the unfortunate reality is that there are many who continue to suffer from extreme forms of violence, in silence. Therefore, we are really faced with a shadow pandemic of violence against women and children,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.
The Minister highlighted that over the past few months, the country has witnessed some of the most gruesome acts of violence against women and children.
These include the murder of 35-year old Singwa Namhla Mtwa who was allegedly shot and murdered outside her home in Sidwadwa in Mthatha, the inexplicable killing of six-year-old Bontle Mashiyane who was found murdered in Mganduzweni outside White River, with her womb and knees removed, and the raping and sexual exploitation of a 2-year-old child by the 52 year old Wikus van Deventer in Paarl, Western Cape.
While these cases garnered widespread condemnation, Nkoana-Mashabane said they form part of a much wider pandemic of violence against women and children.
“As a society, we often underestimate the barbaric nature of violence against women and children. If we do not act with urgency collectively, we run the risk of reversing some of the great milestones we have achieved in advancing and protecting the rights of women and children,” Nkoana-Mashabane warned.
These crime statistics were released as the country commemorated National Child Protection Week between 29 May- 05 June, under the theme, “Let us all Protect Children during COVID-19 and Beyond”.
Nkoana-Mashabane emphasised that citizens can no longer ignore how high levels of violence remain a threat to the social, cognitive, physical development of the country’s future.
“We cannot celebrate our democracy at the expense of the livelihoods of our children. As we commence with Youth Month under the theme Promoting sustainable livelihood and resilience of young people for a better tomorrow, we are particularly sensitive to the lived realities of young women who remain most vulnerable to various forms of gender-based violence, including femicide.
“The persistent threat of violence does hinder the ability to build a resilient youthful population that will advocate and lead the development trajectory of our country. The issue of violence is more than just a physical battle. It has a direct impact on the development of South Africa,” the Minister said.
She added that in order to fully address the scourge, a passive approach can no longer be taken, but instead “we need to invest and strengthen coordinated responses across all spheres of society – especially our communities”.
“Equally, we must challenge the toxic and violent norms and values that perpetuate the violence in our homes, schools, workplaces and churches. We need collective action to report criminality and intervene as communities in promoting prevention of crimes,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.