Thursday, 30 April 2020

Pretoria: Exactly 10 days after the country observed what would have been Uyinene Mrwetyana’s 20th birthday, government marked three key milestones in the nation’s struggle to end violence against women and children.

Firstly, the completion of the work of the Interim Steering Committee on Gender-based Violence and Femicide (GBVF), which was set up in the wake of the 2018 Presidential Summit on GBV.

Secondly, the committee handed over the six-month progress report of the Emergency Response Action Plan.

And finally, the release of the long-awaited National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence, which was one of the key decisions of the Presidential Summit.

Mrwetyana lost her life after being raped, strangled and bludgeoned to death at her local post office in the Western Cape by Luyanda Botha, an official at the branch.

Her death sent shock waves around the country, with several high profile rapes and murders cast into the spotlight and refocusing the country’s attention on the scourge of gender-based violence.

On Thursday, following months of work, the Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, together with the GBV committee co-chairs – Professor Olive Shisana and Advocate Brenda Madumise-Pajibo – handed over the report.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, at a virtual meeting, received the Emergency Response Action Plan and National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.

The plan focuses on four key interventions: broadening access to justice for survivors; changing social norms and behaviour; strengthening existing architecture and promoting accountability, and the creation of more economic opportunities for women.

Among other things, the plan owes its success to the buy-in of all political parties, who pledged their support following the Joint Sitting of Parliament convened by the President last year.

“Government departments rallied around the plan, sourcing around R1.6 billion through budget reprioritisation.

“On access to justice, government budget reprioritisation allowed resources to be redirected to supporting the network of sexual offences courts, Thuthuzela Care Centres and the SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Investigation Units.

“Systems to track the processing of GBV cases, the rollout of a rapid results method in courts and the establishment of a Cold Case Task Team are in combination working to ensure speedy access to justice for survivors of gender-based violence,” said the President as he received the report.

The focus on GBV saw evidence collection kits availed at all police stations.

As part of the prevention effort, mass media campaigns were rolled out nationwide, spearheaded by the Government Communication and Information System.

“Other interventions targeted law-enforcement and judicial officers, as well as specific GBV awareness campaigns targeting men’s formations, offenders, youth at risk and tertiary institutions.

“With regards to response, care and support for survivors of gender-based violence, the number of Thuthuzela Care Centres is being increased, and access to legal aid is being broadened,” said the President.

A number of government buildings have been handed over to the Department of Social Development to be used as additional shelters.

Despite the many achievements, President Ramaphosa said much more still needs to be done, particularly in the area of economic opportunities for women, and addressing the scale of gendered poverty.

“From the outset, it was clear that this would be a short-term plan to be implemented over six months.

“We have reached the end of that term, and the consolidated report being presented today covers the six months,” said the President.

The Emergency Plan helped to set up a delivery mechanism for a longer-term set of interventions, and the work will now be taken over by the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Council.

The Council will also oversee the implementation of the National Strategic Plan.

The National Strategic Plan is government and civil society’s multi-sectoral strategic framework to realise a South Africa free from gender-based violence and femicide.

“The NSP is premised on the equality of all gender groupings, including the LGBTQI+ community, and affirms that accessing services is human rights-based.

“We will galvanise support for this plan by creating a permanent structure to steer its implementation and budgeting for it over the MTEF period.” said the President.