Sonke Gender Justice Network welcomes the commitments made by President Zuma in his SONA to urgently address violence against women, including his commitment to making the newly established GBV Council a success and his commitment to new pieces of legislation to address gaps in the legal framework. These are important and Sonke welcomes them.
However, Sonke expresses disappointment that the President's did not use the SONA to announce a long-term strategy to address the shocking and persistent levels of violence against women in South Africa. The core of the measures announced by the President have been there and have not yielded the desired outcomes. Many civil society organisations had called on the President to use SONA to announce a national commission of inquiry to investigate the failures in government’s current response to GBV, to understand the causes of these high levels of GBV and to put in place a special fund to provide the financial resources necessary to meet the needs of survivors and carry out essential GBV prevention campaigns. Over 50,000 South Africans had signed a petition joining this call. This is a call to act beyond the current norm and provisions.
Despite this explicit call from experts in the field and from ordinary concerned South Africans, President Zuma did not commit to either the commission of inquiry or the special fund. This represents a significant missed opportunity.
Sonke attorney Cherith Sanger stated, "The door is not closed for a conversation with the government. Fifty-five thousand South Africans have signed a petition saying enough is enough. 25 million South African women and girls deserve better than this. And millions of men join them in demanding a comprehensive government response. The country is ready to act, we need our leaders to listen and to take bold and decisive action."