Photograph — The Daily Beast

More than 20 women and children have been murdered in South Africa (SA) since the lockdown commenced in March, five of them happened in June 2020. There has been a surge of femicide, violence against women, in South Africa which President Cyril Ramaphosa has described as a pandemic.

“As a man, as a husband, and as a father, I am appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and the children of our country,” reads a recent statement by Ramaphosa. He added that although the killers thought they could silence the victims, justice would be served.

The ugly phenomenon is not a new situation in the country nor is it being amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather, it has been a prevailing problem and the government seem unable to come up with a better way to safeguard the lives of women and children in the country.

In a report, a 2019 crime statistics released by the Department of Police revealed the depth of the crisis. Nearly 3,000 women were murdered between April 2018 and March 2019, translating to seven deaths per day. 

It has also been reported that the murder rate for SA men is as high as 50 percent. But many of the female victims are brutally assaulted and raped before being murdered. In most cases, their bodies are disposed of in the bush or in shallow graves, or burned beyond recognition.

On June 16, 2020,  in a statement sent to Crux, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) Justice and Peace Commission said it “strongly and unreservedly condemns the recent surge of gender-based violence and femicide that has once again reared its ugly head nationwide since the country entered alert level 3 of COVID-19 lockdown.”

In September 2019, a wave of outrage was sparked by the murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old student of the University of Cape Town, who was raped and killed inside a post office by an employee while she was trying to collect a parcel. 

Mrwetyana’s death sparked a widespread protest and re-ignited the conversation around gender violence which prompted Ramaphosa to declare measures to tackle femicide in the country. 

As of the time of this writing, 4: 20 pm, June 23, 2020, COVID-19 had claimed the lives of 1991 South Africans. The government should channel the same amount of energy it uses to tackle the new coronavirus pandemic on the prevailing gender-based “pandemic” within its borders. 

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