Women in South Africa bear the brunt of unsafe environment
Written by Bongani Siziba
JOHANNESBURG – The period from November 25 to December 10 marks the annual 16 days of activism against gender- based violence, but the success or failure of this campaign rests on our daily individual and collective
actions to safeguard our society against this cycle of abuse.
South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, recently admitted the country is facing a national crisis of violence against women, as protesters took to the streets for a third successive day, after a woman was killed in Soweto by her boyfriend just last month.
Ramaphosa recently addressed the nation a plan of action to curb the scourge of gender-based violence, including a proposal to make a register of offenders public. He announced laws would be reviewed in parliament imminently.
“All gender-based violence cases that have been closed or that were not properly investigated must be reviewed,” said the South African President.
A national plan to curb gender-based violence would also be implemented in school programmes, workplace policies and community initiatives.
‘Shakespeare’s famous line from The Tempest comes to mind as South Africa reels from another epidemic of violence by men against women. The most recent spate of shooting of a woman in Hilbrow has sparked outrage in a country with one of the world’s highest murder rates’.
During the early hours of a Friday two weeks ago, a 31-year-old woman Xolisile Sikhakhane was shot, kidnapped by a group of men at her house in Hilbrow to what is believed to be a case of revenge for the murder of Vusi Mazibuko son of a well-known business man
in Johannesburg, Vusi died at hospital in Johannesburg after he sustained injuries
during a fight at Xolisile’ house in February this year.
It is believed that three men entered Xolisile’s house looking for her sister Karabo
Sikhakhane who was not in the house at that time and mistakenly shot Xolisile who
they believed was Karabo.
’ l was in church around 12am when my phone rang and it was our neighbor telling
me not to come back home because three men have pounced on my sister and shot
her thinking it was me , they shoot her three (3) times on the eye, mouth and neck.
And the guys were shouting (“UPHI LOMTHAKATHI OBULALISE UMFOWETHU
‘( WHERE IS THAT WITCH THAT KILLED OUR BROTHER, SHE MUST ALSO
According to government statistics, more than 1500 people are murdered every month
in South Africa. About 3000 women were murdered last year – or one every three hours
- which is more than five times higher than the global average, according to the World
Femicide, rape and gender-based violence has become so commonplace that it barely
makes headlines in the national media. But recent brazen attacks have shocked even
those accustomed to daily incidents of violence.
Karabo Sikhakhane is, a survivor of domestic abuse she told Africa news how the late
Vusi Mazibuko used to assault her and that she is one of the lucky ones – she is still
Sikhakhane says the abuse she endured at the hands of her ex-boyfriend and his
father is unforgivable.
“I remember my first slap that he gave me,” she said. “I was shocked,” she added,
pointing to where she was first hit.
It would become a cycle of abuse, she said, one that would nearly break her
South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women on the entire
continent, with a rate five times the global average, according to a 2015 study by
the South African Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.
Bernadine Bachar, director of the Saartjie Baartman Center for Children in South Africa,
called those statistics “shocking.”
“Statistics suggest that one in five women have been exposed to physical abuse,” she
said. “Globally we have one of the highest rates of gender-based violence.
In the U.S., approximately three women are killed every day by a current or former
intimate partner. In South Africa, a woman is killed every four hours.
‘ l now live in fear because l don’t know what will happen to me, violence has become
normalized,” Sikhakhane said. “It’s just part of what we experience on day-to-day
l am blamed for the death of Vusi but does anyone know what he put me through all
these years, his death was an accident and l regret it everyday.
‘Women and children are susceptible to violence because of the culture of violence
where many men believe that they are entitled to use violence against their partners
and their children in order to compel compliance with whatever the man wants.”
For the fear of her life Sikhakhane is now living with a friend but her safety is not
“I’m trying to be stronger than before. I’m so [much] stronger than before. I think one
day l will be ready to face the world and achieve the best that I can for them,” l still need
to finish my studies but how will l do that out of fear.
The theme for this year is #HearMeToo.
In a society mired in a culture of patriarchy and fuelled by impunity, getting action on
femicide is going to be a formidable battle. Perpetrators of violence against women
believe they can, and often do, get away with their crimes