In his weekly letter to the public, President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on men to play their part to combat Gender-Based Violence (GBV) during the nationwide lockdown period.

Ramaphosa expressed concerns over the rise of GBV complaints now that families have been curbed together.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, violence against women has become a global headache. While a third of women around the world have experienced some form of violence in their lives, the United Nations say since the pandemic – the number of calls to helplines have doubled in several countries in April, compared with the same month in 2019. “In China they have tripled; and in Australia, search engines such as Google are seeing the highest magnitude of searches for domestic violence help in the past five years,” the world body says.

Here in South Africa the same scenario is playing out. Authorities say 2 300 cases of gender-based violence were reported during the first week of the country’s lockdown, which began on March 27.

“It is disturbing that during a time of such immense difficulty for our country, women and girls are being terrorised inside their own homes, forcing them to make desperate calls for help. The number of calls to the GBV National Command Centre has increased since the lockdown began on 27 March,” says President Ramaphosa in his letter.

“I have directed the Minister of Police to ensure that Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units are reinforced at police stations during the lockdown and beyond.”

Measures to combat the scourge

  • Government to prioritise gender-based violence in its national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Government to implement the Emergency Response Plan to end gender-based violence.
  • Support services to vulnerable women and children remain operational throughout the lockdown, including psycho-social services like counselling for women and children, sheltering and places of safety, and medico-legal services in cases of sexual violence.
  • The Gender-Based Violence National Command Centre remains operational.
  • The Interim Steering Committee on GBV and femicide, in consultation with civil society organisations, is developing guidelines and protocols for GBV management amid COVID-19.

South African picture of GBV amid COVID-19 Pandemic

On 30 March 2020 it was Day 3 since Ramaphosa announced a nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic. On the same day the Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, reported that there were continuing incidences of violence against women and children during the lockdown period.

This was after a KwaZulu-Natal grandmother was raped and murdered, allegedly by men posing as soldiers. The 75-year-old Genzeni Ernstine MaMthalane Zuma reportedly allowed the criminals into her home in Sweetwaters, Pietermaritzburg, after they claimed to be South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members assigned to sanitise homes in the area.

Just recently, a 5-year-old boy was found murdered inside a tavern in Orange Farm, Johannesburg. The murder came while the country was still reeling from that of a 14-year-old teenager who was found raped and murdered in Soweto.

Members of the public who feel threatened are urged to contact the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre on 0800 428 428 or  *120*786#.

Below is a full statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing GBV and vandalism happening at schools: