President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on MPs to discuss engagements on the struggle against women with respect.
He has also called on MPs to respect the country’s women following disturbing scenes in parliament, where the issue of gender-based violence was used as a political football.
Ramaphosa was speaking during his reply to the State of the Nation Address, where he used the opportunity to speak on claims made by EFF leader Julius Malema that he abused his late wife.
He said the leader of the red overalls had in 2017 raised a similar allegation that he assaulted his first wife, Hope Ramaphosa, who he said had denied the claims.
Ramaphosa noted that Malema had at the joint sitting of Parliament on Tuesday made a fresh allegation after he was accused by ANC MP Boy Mamabolo of abusing his wife.
“I felt for your wife. It was uncalled for. It was improper. It was not correct for it to be raised and if I can offer an apology about this I would like to,” he said.
“My heart goes out to Mantoa and your family, honorable member Malema. I hope MPs must not politicize this issue of gender-based violence,” the president said.
However, he stated that Malema had on Tuesday made fresh claims that he assaulted his late wife.
“She is not here to respond for herself,” he said before invoking a letter he had read from a citizen who had written to him expressing unhappiness with how MPs dealt with gender-based violence.
“We should not resort to using issues such as these as it was used against you to politicize and trivialize an important issue that affects so many women in our country,” Ramaphosa said.
He said they all needed to engage in the struggle against gender violence.
“We must engage in this fight and make sure we bring gender-based violence to an end and we do so in our lifetime. As we do so we must have respect for one another and also have respect for women of our country… we do with great sensitivity towards them and their families,” he said.