President Cyril Ramaphosa says MPs owe it to South Africans to apologise for trivialising gender-based violence and reducing it into a political point-scoring contest during the debate on the State of the Nation Address.
Speaking during his reply to the SONA debate, Ramaphosa thanked MPs who participated in this debate, especially those who engaged meaningfully and constructively with the issues covered in his speech.
He said despite the differences, there were a good number of MPs who were able to find some issues which they thought were steps in the right direction.
“Through their contributions, these members have demonstrated, across party lines, that this is indeed a Parliament of the people, firmly committed to representing the interests and needs of all our people.”
He, however, expressed dismay at what he described as “shameful exchanges” that took place when he delivered SONA last Thursday, saying they served to politicise and trivialise the national crisis of gender-based violence.
He said the exchanges served to politicise and trivialise GBV at a time they were calling to intensify and deepen the struggle to end all forms of violence perpetrated by men against women.
“They undermine the resolve that this House demonstrated in its joint sitting in September last year to respond to this crisis decisively and swiftly,” Ramaphosa said.
“I think this is something we should, Madam Speaker and chair of the National Council of Provinces should apologize to South African for the manner this matter was debated,” he said.
“Let us agree that we should never again allow such an important issue to be used in such a way and reaffirm our shared and unwavering commitment to using all means at our disposal to end GBV and femicide against women of South Africa,” he said.
Ramaphosa noted that since he announced the emergency response action plan last year important progress had been made.
“We have improved access to justice for victims and survivors.”
He also said the police had confirmed that all police stations have sexual assault evidence collection kits.
The ministers of health and police, Zweli Mkhize and Bheki Cele, continued to work together to ensure the kits were available at police stations.
“They have prioritised backlog cases related to gender-based violence and established the cold case task team.
“They have analysed over 3,600 dockets on sexual offences, and more than 60% of these have been reopened for further investigation and referred to the Senior Public Prosecutor for the decision,” he said.
The president also said they make progress to make visible multimedia to raise awareness on GBV and change behaviour.
“We have appointed 200 social workers and I would like us to appoint more. We have so many who remain unemployed,” he said.
“We need to bring them into employment so that they can do the social work they were trained for,” he told the House.
Ramaphosa also said health professionals and social services persons were trained on post violence care and trauma debriefing.
The NPA has identified areas where more Thuthuzela Centre would be established in Cradock, KwaVuma, Garankuwa, Paarl and Tzaneen.
He also said progress was being made on economic inclusion of women with 40% of government given to women and prioritisation of women as beneficiaries of land reform.
“We would like to call on the private sector. They too must follow suit as they procure good and services they must have a set-aside. That will help empower women of our country because they too are capable,” he said.
Ramaphosa also said much more still needed to be done.
“As a nation let us have courage and commitment to bring an end to gender-based violence.”