As today marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala accompanied by Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane, Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu and KZN MEC for Social Development Nonhlanhla Khoza, visited Inanda police station north of Durban before the official launch at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (Durban ICC) on Thursday.
Zikalala said he was disturbed by the rise in cases of gender-based violence in KZN, particularly in Inanda, Ntuzuma, Mashu and Umlazi that are all among the top 20 areas of concern. “We have a comprehensive strategy to deal with gender-based violence and femicide by creating awareness as the first pillar of the strategy. If a person has laid a hand on you, know that it will happen again. We need to ensure that victims of abuse are treated accordingly and that they are being supported during court cases and after,” Zikalala said.
He was of the opinion that abusers can be dealt with by enforcement of the law and better regulation of liquor outlets as the accessibility of alcohol contributes to violence.
Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu said all government departments have to be held accountable for implementing the national strategic plans to fight gender-based violence. “It is important to mobilise our communities and other institutions to working together. We call on the local structures to be the ones that step up in ensuring that we work very well. South Africa cannot continue to be known as a capital for abuse against women and children,” Zulu said.
She said gender-based violence is one of the biggest challenges faced by the country, where women ought to be free to walk the streets without fear of abuse.
Rape and sexual violence cases have increased during lockdown. Archive photo by Mzi Velapi
9,556 people were raped in South Africa in just three months, according to the Minister of Police Bheki Cele. Last week, Cele released the police’s crime statistics for the period 1 July to 30 September 2021 where he noted with concern the 7.1% increase in rape cases (634). He said most of these cases occurred during lockdown. “The majority of people raped are women and those most vulnerable in our society,” Cele said. He said 400 of the rape cases were linked to domestic violence.
The statistics also show that the victims were often violated in their own homes by people they knew and trusted. The police stations reporting the highest numbers of rape cases are Inanda in KwaZula-Natal, Temba in Gauteng, Thohoyandou in Limpopo and Lusikisiki police station in the Eastern Cape.
A rape victim who spoke to Elitsha said she was raped as a teenager over five years ago. “The worst part is that the person who raped me was never caught. I was on my way home from school when I was grabbed by someone from behind and he raped me. It was the most traumatic experience of my life and to make matters worse, no one believed me,” she said.
As someone who was in matric at the time, she said she was afraid and ashamed to report the matter to the police because she didn’t want to be stigmatised. “Most women keep quiet because they feel people would not believe them but I later got the courage to report it even though nothing came out of it, I still feel there was more the police could have done to catch the culprit,” she said.
Another victim said she was sexually abused by a close relative since she was 13 years old. “I was afraid to tell anyone because he was loved by everyone, no one would have believed me. I am a grown woman now with my own children but the trauma I went through for four years in his hands damaged me, I couldn’t trust anyone. Elders are supposed to protect us not hurt us. I now use my experience to encourage women to speak up about abuse,” she said.
She said most abuse victims think it is normal to be abused while others fear that they will be stigmatised or no one will believe them. “No one deserves to be abused, as women we should stand up and say enough is enough. We must help, support and protect one another and don’t bring each other down,” she added.
The campaign themed The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke –16 Days of Activism – moving from awareness to accountability is the government’s effort to fight and ultimately conquer the scourge of violence aimed at women and children.