President Cyril Ramaphosa has made an impassioned address to the nation on Thursday, as the presidency faces one of the biggest issues plaguing South Africa. Thousands of protesters demanded that swift action must be taken against rapists and those who commit femicide – and it seems Cyril is on the same page.
In a brief, informal address to demonstrators earlier in the day, Ramaphosa hinted that there would be sweeping changes to the law in order to give the women of South Africa a greater sense of safety. Many of his proposals will need to be debated in Parliament, and a majority are reactive rather than proactive.
Cyril Ramaphosa talks tough on gender-based violence
But nonetheless, this is progress. The reaction has been swift and Ramaphosa told crowds he agreed with their sentiments, stating that “enough is enough” when it comes to gender-based violence (GBV). His televised speech was a robust one, and there is plenty of legislation that could soon be amended.
What is more, you can thank the scores of protesters who marched to Parliament under the #AmINext banner to force the president’s hand on this one. Show us a more iconic image than this, please. We’ll wait:
Immediate actions to be taken by Cyril Ramaphosa and the government:
State of emergency
The first thing he did was relatively easy, and relies on the president’s executive powers. Ramaphosa has indeed called a state of emergency on gender-based violence. This will allow Parliament to address the matter quicker than usual, and more funding can be made available to implement measures aimed at keeping women safe in South Africa.
On Wednesday, we reported that France was trying to work out how to quell its own femicide problem. Around 0.12 women in every 100 000 are murdered in the European country each year. President Macron has announced that thousands more women’s shelters will be built, and Ramaphosa has vowed to do the same – even if he scrimped on the details.
Re-open all cases relating to gender-based violence
Ramaphosa is seeking justice, and he told the nation that all serious cases of gender-based violence that have been left unsolved or “gone cold” must be reconsidered by the relevant authorities. The president also punted the introduction of special courts to deal with gender-based violence – a proposal he intends to run by cabinet in the near future.
Laws that Cyril Ramaphosa and the government will seek to change
Harsher penalties for rapists and murders
Item one on the agenda for everyone concerned. The way these particular criminals are processed by the legal system is set for a major shake-up – if Cyril gets his way: He reiterated the calls he made earlier on Thursday to introduce harsher penalties against these perpetrators.
The president certainly didn’t mince his words, and subject to Parliamentary approval, the deterrents could be strengthened in the following ways:
Automatic life sentences for rapists and murderers, with the term “life” meaning exactly that, and not just a 25-year stretch.
Bail will be withdrawn from suspects in major cases.
Those found guilty could also have any chance of parole taken away from them.
Plough more funds in preventing femicide
Cyril confirmed he had asked Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to allocate more funds to fighting GBV. With the extra cash, Ramaphosa stated he wants an overhaul of rehabilitation programmes for criminals and a wholesale increase in where they are available. He also said that there will be “changes to the school curriculum” to educate young adults on issues like femicide and rape.
Emergency Parliamentary reviews
Two things to know here: It looks like Ramaphosa will consider cross-party contributions in trying to identify “emergency interventions” which can be implemented immediately. That “e-word” proved popular, as he also revealed plans to establish emergency response teams who specifically deal with crimes against women, children and minorities.
Naming and shaming those who commit crimes against women and children
There’s been a lot of clamour for this, and the president is ready to listen. Ramaphosa is making the bold decision to ensure both the Violence Against Women and Children Register and the Sex Offenders Register are officially made accessible to the public: It’s a move that is likely to draw the most controversy, though.
“We are going to modernise and overhaul the register of gender based violence. The register will be taken to Parliament for debate to make the names of those convicted public. I will also urge parliament to amend legislation so that the National Register of Sexual Offenders is made public, too.”