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President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned a "surge in murders of women and children", after the body of a young woman was found dumped under a tree in Dobsonville, Soweto, on Friday
Since the country entered alert Level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown on 1 June, there has been a surge in gender-based violence and femicide, the president said in a statement on Saturday.
"According to the SAPS there has been an increase in violent crime, especially murders, since we entered alert level 3. We need to understand what factors are fuelling this terrible trend and, as society as a whole, address them urgently," the president said.
Ramaphosa also referenced the murders of Tshegofatso Pule and Naledi Phangindawo.
Pule, 28, was found stabbed and hanged from a tree in a veld in Roodepoort. She was eight months pregnant when she was murdered.
Phangindawo, 25, was stabbed to death in Mossel Bay after she was attacked with a knife and an axe.
Other cases in the last week include an elderly woman who was raped and a child who was found dead in a field, and two young women shot dead, in KwaZulu-Natal, and an Eastern Cape woman who was allegedly the victim of a mob killing.
Ramaphosa noted that South Africa had among the highest levels of intimate partner violence in the world, and that as much as 51% of South African women have experienced violence at the hands of someone with whom they are in a relationship.
The president is deploying ministers and deputy ministers to meet with community leaders around the country as part of national efforts to combat Covid-19. During these visits they will be engaging with communities on this upsurge in gender-based violence, Ramaphosa said.
"In far too many cases of gender-based violence, the perpetrators are known to the victim, but they are also known to our communities. That is why we say this is a societal matter, and not a matter of law enforcement alone. Gender-based violence thrives in a climate of silence.
"With our silence, by looking the other way because we believe it is a personal or family matter, we become complicit in this most insidious of crimes," Ramaphosa said.
Citing the case of 36-year-old Sibongiseni Gabada from Khayelitsha who was found murdered last month, the president said survivors of gender-based violence believe the criminal justice is failing them.
Despite Gabada's boyfriend allegedly confessing to the murder, the case against him was dropped, reportedly due to a lack of evidence.
"I urge the SAPS to act swiftly to track down whoever was involved in these murders and ensure there is justice for the murdered women and children. I also urge our communities to end the culture of silence and speak up. In doing so you will be saving lives," Ramaphosa said.
The president has urged communities to work with the police and report any information they may have to Crime Stop on 08600 10111, send an anonymous SMS to Crime Line at 32211 or call the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre at 0800 428 428.