By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
Thousands of women and gender activists joined together on the first day of Women’s Month to protest the rising incidence of gender-based violence across the country.
The movement’s Brenda Madumise said the marchers, under the banner #TheTotalShutdown, were taking control of their destiny.
“We are saying that we had enough,” said Patience Mpani from the Center for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria. “We are dying every day and we cannot continue to live like this. It can’t be business as usual in South Africa when women are dying every day.”
Nontembeko Luzipo of the South African Federation of Trade Unions said justice authorities and the police have failed women. “When we go and report these cases…most of the time the perpetrator will be in the streets. They do something today. They are free and out on bail tomorrow.”
While organizers failed to achieve a “total shutdown” of South Africa, a mood of profound anger made itself visible and audible on a scale rarely evident, observed editors at the Daily Maverick.
Taking to social media, local celebrities shared their thoughts on and snaps of the intersectional women’s march.
“Idols SA” judge and singer, Unathi, shared a snap of herself alongside the caption: “Thank you ABUSIVE MEN of South Africa for forcing us start OUR month with THIS campaign! ENOUGH is ENOUGH! PS If you’re not abusive and yet keep quiet when your friends abuse women in your presence or you just know of it… MAN UP!”.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who received a list of memorandum of demands from the women, promised to conduct a gender summit aimed at raising awareness regarding women abuse and rape.
After arriving late for a meeting with women organizers, he apologized for the way police had handled the protest after trying to remove protestors from the Union Buildings, saying there would be measures taken against the police for such behavior and actions.
“You have the right to enjoy your bodies‚ the right to live a life that is happy‚” Ramaphosa told them.
“I am sorry – I really am deeply sorry – that a number of women in the country have not had the opportunity to enjoy all the rights in the constitution because they are violated‚ abused‚ assaulted and a number are also killed.
“This causes me to hang my head in shame‚ because this is not the way South African men should behave towards the women of our country.”
Mass marches took place across all nine provinces, while neighboring countries Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia held their own marches for the same cause.