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Ministerial Debate on Violence against Women and Children
National Assembly

01 June 2017

Madam Speaker, Honourable members,


I have instructed our family of more than 200 000 law enforcement officers to be vigilant and to work tirelessly to aggressively eradicate all crimes against women and children. I want to assure South Africans and the world that crimes against vulnerable groups are my top priority and we will be spending thousands of overtime hours on this. To women, girls, mothers, grannies, imbokodo, I stand here to tell you, indeed enough is enough! It has been enough for centuries. We have lost too many lives! We have scarred too many. It is a shame to be a man these days!

I have no doubt that the House joins me in sending our united deepest condolences to the victims, survivors and their loved ones at this time. Your pain is our pain. We walk in shame for what befalls you.

Crimes against little girls, infants and women are cowardice.

Madam Speaker, raising our voices requires us to effect not only rhetoric, but certain practical changes, for example, we shall ensure that female victims receive the legal, medical, social and psychological help they need and that policing and court processes be made as tolerable as possible.

The SAPS is focused on improved training, specialist and visible policing. This is where effective change could be implemented.

All this, Madam Speaker, is currently taking place at a heightened pace. We have no time to waste time!

Our communities have rightly criticized the police for ‘reluctance to interfere in domestic disputes, and in particular, for their reluctance to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of the domestic violence.’

I want to make it clear today that domestic violence is not to be treated lightly. Violence against children, girls and boys is totally intolerable and I assure the children and women watching at home, that we are doing everything to protect you and keep you safe from criminals.

The traditional, unequal power relationship between men and women, is now unconstitutional. In the past, a man had power over his wife, including her property and daily affairs. Women and girls are not male property, full stop!

This warped notion that a woman could be a man’s property instilled another idea that a husband had the right to administer physical ‘punishment’ to his wife.

Female victims of this domestic violence often retract their police reports or suffer internally due to a concern over the male breadwinner going to jail. This compounds this cancer into emotional and financial violence against our women.

Rape and sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse have remained unconnected to other areas of criminal victimization. Today we declare that ubudlwembe obu. If you beat your girlfriend, wife or partner, ungutsotsi! I will just say we are coming for you, Tsotsi! You cowards! Weak, weak men!

Madam Speaker, I want to reiterate a clear message to the police’s management to supplement their operating procedures on crimes against women, children and the gay community and post the following six points in writing in all community offices:

  1. A trained specialist police officer should interview all victims. Globally, the SAPS has the second largest female police personnel after Norway, so as we fast-track the training of specialist police, female police officers should interview victims.
  2. If possible, the interview should be conducted at a location other than a police station if the police station does not have private rooms.
  3.  Medical examinations should always be performed at a location other than a police station.
  4. All victims should be given the option of an examination and evidence collection by a female police surgeon.
  5. Only experienced police officers should be assigned to conduct the investigation.
  6. All victims of sexual offences, femicide and infanticide with their loved ones, should be referred to victim support.

Honourable members, I have also tasked my office to work with our counterparts to urgently evaluate the viability of having infanticide, femicide and all domestic violence made a special category crime. An assault on a woman must carry a heavier sentence than a charge of common assault.

The offence of rape, femicide and infanticide particularly, is surrounded by strong feelings, and the insensitive interviewing of a victim, already humiliated and degraded, may cause further trauma. We must neither re-humiliate nor re-victimize the victims.

While some allegations of rape may be false, all investigations must commence on the premise that the complainant is a genuine victim. The police and community should not be courts of law. Courts are the only centres to pronounce one guilty or not guilty.

Madam Speaker, our communities, neighbours and families must not hide behind the shame of domestic abuse.

I want to encourage South Africans to report any suspicion of domestic abuse and remember always that “every domestic beating is potential murder” and that “every domestic sexual child abuse is potential rape and infanticide”. Report imidlwembe in your community! We have no time to waste time!

To end femicide, we need to end impunity and bring perpetrators to justice. Every individual must change his or her attitude towards this being a mere domestic issue.

The criminal justice system is ready to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators. Together, we must lock them up! Together, we will oppose bail or demand hard bail conditions!

The killing of females because they are females threatens our national security by leaving a majority of our population living in fear. It destroys gender balance, economic progress and harmony. My office now regards rape, femicide, infanticide and gender-based violence as a fundamental threat to national security and I instruct the police to deal with it as a priority crime.

The rights of women and children are human rights too.

Honourable Mbhele proposed this snap debate, referring to the “scourge of violence against women and children”. Government agrees with him, except we also recognise that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer rights are human rights too.

All these killings and abuse are a dishonour to our democracy. Perpetrators defile the ground we walk on.

The ANC Government is committed to doing everything it can to stop violence against our precious demographics. To achieve this objective, Government will devote resources and funding, but most importantly, Government has the political will to fight lamagwala! The police will oppose all bail related to domestic violence.

Honourable members, television is widely watched and a very influential medium in South Africa today. More than 12 million television sets are switched on in South Africa daily. Its impact is far-reaching. Many of the most popular television programmes, with the highest viewership ratings, reinforce the misogynistic, patriarchal, men power-wielding customs, portrayal of women in a bad light or as witches, and so on. These violent images against women, the reinforcement of witchcraft is real.

I address this message to the creative industry; the portrayal of women and children as sex objects in drama television series contributes to making certain acts appear acceptable to some. Write screenplays that encourage respect and love for women and girls. Promote harmonious lifestyles that accept the gay community.

Females must be promoted as valuable. Let us denounce patriarchy, misogyny and paedophiles. Together, we must isolate them. We have no time to waste time! Isikhathi sidliwe inja bantu bakwethu!

Teachers at schools and preschools must be vigilant and report any suspicion of child abuse. Not reporting crime is a crime. Teachers must not abuse the children the country puts in their care.

“Every domestic beating is potential murder.” “Every incident of domestic sexual child abuse is potential rape and infanticide.”

I know that these crimes know no class, but many of the raped or murdered women and children come from the most marginalized sectors of society. They are poor, from rural areas, sex workers and so on. None of these people deserve to be murdered. They are vulnerable and must be protected.

The police have been instructed to pay particular attention to these groups in their crime profiling and prevention strategies. Communities are also encouraged to participate in their community policing forums and other community-based activities.

The police will reinforce its multi-sectorial approach to prevent this national shame and global problem. This multisectorial approach will also deal with factors that contribute heavily to crimes, which are poverty, inequality and unemployment. We must not lose sight of the fact that the police alone cannot solve crimes – poverty must be eliminated. Inequality, economic inequality between races and genders must be eliminated. Honourable members, we need radical economic transformation now, in my lifetime, in our lifetime! We have no time to waste time! Land access for social housing and subsistence must be part of our strategy to fight crime.

Madam Speaker, President Zuma’s executive has visited the bereaved in South Africa.

Our people want us to shut down illegal shebeens and drug houses, and we will. They are demanding that we pay attention to minibus taxi drivers and the vulnerability of females using this mode of transport. Some of these taxis are crime scenes on wheels. Our people are asking for land to build safe homes for themselves to reduce overcrowded shack dwellings. They complain that bail is granted too easily, that some of our police members collaborate with gangs. Our people want more social workers in their communities. They want safe sports fields and safe transport for children to school. We have heard you. We agree with you! Siyeza nakini!

Instead of pointing fingers, political parties are encouraged to participate in Government programmes to encourage vigilance of communities and encourage each community to have a Community Policing Forum. These crimes are not performed by members of a particular party, but by society. We cannot afford cheap political scoring over such an evil and dark crime often committed in hiding.

Let us teach our boys that they are because women are.

In the African culture, we have inkosi and inkosikazi. Inkosi is a king, which makes women our queens. We value our queens in Africa. Together, we must isolate criminals. We have no time to waste time!

The police are not authorised to negotiate with women beaters or child molesters. Read them their rights and do the right thing. Do not negotiate with a thug that thinks the gay community is his or hers to harass and murder. Witch hunters, who murder innocent women from suspicion of witchcraft, there is a new witch in town. I am coming for you!

The SAPS is going back to basics. Let us solve crimes and oppose bail. We will soon launch a public campaign to educate, activate and sensitise all role players and society over this scourge.

Let this time not be lost to rhetoric, to hashtags, but real action. Let us not have meaningless feel-good hashtags as we saw with #Joseph Koni or #Bring back our girls. Joseph Koni is still a free madman. Our girls have not all been returned. Courtney, Thobile, Karabo and Mary, among many other girls, must still be found.

Thank you.

Honourable F Mbalula, MP

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