We are meeting here, at this second Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, exactly four years to the day since we made a pledge to each other to work together to end the violence that men perpetrate against women and children in South Africa.
It was at the first Presidential Summit on GBV and Femicide in 2018 that we collectively made a firm commitment to the nation to undertake a comprehensive, effective and united response to gender-based violence and femicide.
We agreed to develop a National Strategic Plan to guide our national response, to coordinate the various sectors involved in the fight against GBV, to strengthen the state’s response, and to align the efforts of government, the private sector and civil society.
We decided to embark on a number of interventions to deal with the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide in our country.
The first step was the development of a GBVF Emergency Response Action Plan in 2019.
I requested Parliament’s presiding officers to call a special joint sitting of both houses of Parliament to announce the action plan.
The plan was embraced by members of Parliament representing all political parties.
This was a significant moment in that GBVF was seen as a non-partisan matter on which all political parties demonstrated their preparedness to act together to address this scourge.
This was followed by the release in April 2020 of the National Strategic Plan, which had been carefully drawn up together with civil society.
Yet, despite our efforts, violence against women and children continues unabated in our country.
Data from the South African Police Service shows that sexual offences and rape increased by 13 per cent between 2017/18 and 2021/22.
Between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022 there was a 52 per cent increase in the murder of women, and 46 per cent increase in the number of children murdered.
Not a day goes by without a story in the newspapers, on television or online about a woman or child that has lost their life or been abused in the most horrendous manner.
Since the rape and murder of 19-year-old Uyinene Mrwetyana in 2019 sparked mass marches around the country, there have been so many more women killed by men.
Since then, the nation has been horrified by the brutal violence that took the lives of Tshegofatso Pule, Nosicelo Mtebeni, Hillary Gardee, Namhla Mtwa, Dimpho Skelenge and many other women.
Innocents like Asithandile Same, Tshimologo Lotshabeng, Tazne van Wyk and Reagan Gertse have fallen victim to heartless criminals.
Just as the country was reeling from the news of a gang rape of a group of women in Krugersdorp, we were confronted with the news of the murder of 4-year-old little Bokgabo Poo, who was dismembered and her body parts thrown into a field.
Just as babies are not being spared, even the elderly have become targets of violent men.
We have in recent times seen a spate of rapes and killings of elderly women, our mothers and grandmothers that are meant to be respected and treated with dignity.
These horrors defy comprehension. There are really no words for them.
They tell a story about our society that is deeply disturbing.
It is a story of a nation at war with itself.
These barbaric acts are a shameful indictment of the men of this country.
It is not women who are responsible for ending such crimes; it is men.
As a society, ending violence against women and children cannot be anything but our foremost priority.
This is about the lives of our country’s women and children.
There can be no greater urgency.
That is why all of us who are attending this Summit must be focused on action and results.
We need to be critical about those areas of the National Strategic Plan in which there has been little or no progress.
We need practical plans to correct shortcomings and weaknesses.
This Summit must look at what is working, what is not and what is needed to make a difference.
This is an accountability Summit.
This second Presidential Summit is for us to assess progress in fulfilling the commitments we made at the first Summit in 2018 and in implementing the National Strategic Plan.
What we have stressed throughout this process is the importance of a collaborative and coordinated approach towards combating gender-based violence and femicide.
We need to plan together, implement together and account together.
We owe this to the women and children of South Africa.
We owe it to all who have been victims of this scourge, including families and loved ones.
We owe it to the people of this country.
The actions we take now will determine whether this crime forever remains a feature of our national life, or whether we can say we are the generation that ended it.
One of the great successes of our effort to fight gender-based violence is the extent to which social partners have rallied around the National Strategic Plan.
The presence here today of such a broad range of civil society organisations, public bodies and social formations is testament to this.
We are grateful to all those people from across society who have been involved throughout all stages of the formulation of the NSP and guided its implementation.
We are further grateful to all the Working Groups, co-chaired by government and civil society representatives, that have been working tirelessly to drive the implementation of the NSP.
To ensure that the issue of gender-based violence receives the highest attention, the responsibility for institutionalising the NSP across all organs of state was placed in the Presidency.
An ‘End GBV’ Collective was established as a multi-sectoral structure to drive collaborative implementation.
Government departments are required to submit monthly reports to the Presidency outlining their respective achievements towards the targets set in the NSP.
This has been key to tracking progress.
We set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee to coordinate the implementation of the NSP across government departments and report regularly to Cabinet.
The Bill that will pave the way for the establishment of the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Council is currently before Parliament.
We must acknowledge that this Bill took too long to get to Parliament due to a rather long period of consultation, but we are hopeful that it has been enriched by the extensive engagements that have been undertaken.
To ensure that a gendered lens is applied to public finances and resource allocation, in 2019 we adopted a framework on gender-responsive planning, budgeting, monitoring, evaluation and auditing.
This is in the early stages of implementation and we are working to institutionalise it at local government level.
I said at the inaugural Summit in 2018 that we would fast-track the review of existing laws and policies to ensure that they are more effective at preventing gender-based violence, providing greater support and care for survivors, and bringing perpetrators to justice.
In January this year, I signed into law three key pieces of legislation, namely the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act, and the Domestic Violence Amendment Act.
These new laws afford greater protection to survivors of gender-based violence and ensure that perpetrators are no longer able to use legislative loopholes to evade prosecution.
Other reforms that will strengthen the fight against gender-based violence include the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill that is currently before Parliament.
The Victim Support Services Bill has been approved by Cabinet and published for public comment.
In 2020, we also passed the Cybercrimes Act, which affords protection against sex crimes like so-called revenge porn, threats of sexual violence, blackmail and other acts that disproportionately affect women, especially young girls.
The Department of Justice and Correctional Services is seized with implementing reforms in the criminal justice system to ensure that the system prioritises survivors and their needs.
There has been particular focus on the accessibility and functioning of Sexual Offences Courts.
Since the last Presidential Summit, 83 courts have been upgraded into Sexual Offences Courts.
We have prioritised support for survivors through adequate sheltering services and one-stop services for victims of trauma.
Expanding the network of Thuthuzela Care Centres was one of the commitments we made at the 2018 Presidential Summit.
Since the National Strategic Plan was adopted, we have opened more new centres around the country.
Another centre will be opened in Limpopo later this month.
This will add to the increase of Thuthuzela Care Centres across the country.
Apart from being places of refuge and support, these centres are proving effective in improving conviction rates.
In the last financial year, a conviction rate of 77 per cent was obtained for cases reported at Thuthuzela Care Centres.
As it stands, out of 52 districts across the country, 45 have at least one GBV shelter and 85 per cent of these are government funded.
We will do more to ensure that the remaining districts without shelters are capacitated.
The Department of Social Development has established a National Emergency Response Team to offer trauma debriefing in emergency situations.
The Gender-based Violence Command Centre has been further capacitated with a new facility that can accommodate more personnel.
We have been working to ensure that South Africa’s efforts to turn the tide against gender-based violence are aligned with global efforts.
Late last year, South Africa ratified the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 190 aimed at eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work.
A key aspect of the National Strategic Plan is the economic empowerment of women.
Since announcing our determination to direct at least 40 per cent of public procurement to women-owned businesses, we have sought to establish an enabling environment to support women entrepreneurs.
We have trained more than 6,000 women to prepare them to take up procurement opportunities.
Through the Women’s Economic Assembly, we have seen industry associations and companies committing to industry-wide gender transformation targets.
We can therefore say that we have made significant progress in putting the supporting architecture in place that is critical to a coordinated and collaborative fight against GBV.
In the Joint Sitting of Parliament in 2019, I called for government departments to allocate the necessary resources to combat gender-based violence.
As a result, in February 2021, government announced the allocation of approximately R21 billion over three years to implement the various components of the National Strategic Plan.
A significant portion of these funds has been committed to advancing the empowerment of women through procurement, business support and access to economic opportunities.
Funds have also been directed to expanding support to survivors, strengthening the response of the criminal justice system and undertaking prevention programmes.
The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation has been tracking expenditure of the R21 billion allocated over the medium-term.
It is important that this Summit assesses both the extent of funds that have been spent as well as the purposes to which these funds have been put.
We need to ensure that our resources are being directed to where there is the greatest need and where they have the greatest impact.
Last year we established a private sector-led Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Response Fund 1, which received a commitment of R162 million and has to date funded 112 grant partners.
We must acknowledge, however, that given the demand for services to address the many different aspects of the fight against GBV, these funds are currently inadequate.
I therefore call on the private sector in particular to join hands with us – as we did with the Solidarity Fund – to make more resources available where they are needed most.
We must accept that as individuals, institutions and leaders across society, we all must play our part.
This fight is about far more than ensuring that survivors of GBV get justice.
It is about preventing violence against women and children from happening in the first place.
It is in the area of prevention that we need to place greater attention, exert more effort and dedicate more resources.
As government we have developed a comprehensive National GBVF Prevention strategy, and in March this year, we also launched the National Integrated Prevention Strategy against Femicide.
But we have not mobilised the resources required for effective behaviour change programmes that link up with the efforts of social partners in communities to address the attitudes and actions of men.
In every part of society, in every workplace, in every school and college and university, in every government department, in every municipality, in every community, we need to be organising men’s dialogues.
We need to reach out to boys and young men to develop masculinities that value respect, understanding and accountability.
A good example of this is the project by Prime Stars, which, in collaboration with government, focuses on redefining masculinity among young men.
This programme needs to be rolled out to all the schools in the country.
We need to see the President, Ministers, Premiers, religious leaders, sports people, artists, educators, business leaders and many others participating in various dialogues, outreach and awareness-raising activities.
We thank our Premiers for convening Provincial GBV summits leading up to this summit.
Those summits have made a huge contribution in raising the level of consciousness about GBV and Femicide and helping to prepare us all for this summit.
We need to re-weave the social fabric, so we become a society that is nurturing, caring, respectful and in which the human rights of all are protected.
We must build a society in which there is no place for crimes against women, children and members of the LGBTQI+ community.
As we reflect on the progress of the last four years, we can count many successes.
We have put the issue of violence against women and children firmly on the national agenda and at the forefront of the minds of many South Africans.
We have established critical institutions and mobilised significant resources.
But there is much more that still needs to be done.
We are not even close to where we want to be.
We are confronted with an immensely difficult task.
The road ahead will be long and challenging, but it is a road that we must walk together.
It is a road that we must walk – together and with determination – so that the women and children of this country may live in safety, in peace and in happiness.
We want to do nothing less than fundamentally and forever change our society.
Working together, as we have done over these last four years, I have no doubt that we will overcome and that we will prevail.
I thank you.