Programme Director, Minister Jackson Mthembu
Members of the Media
Fellow South Africans
This year has been a very difficult year for all of us. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic early this year across the world brought about unprecedented disruptions and anxieties that are significantly impacting our lives and livehoods. Here at home, we have had to muster our collective efforts and resources to fight the spread, and the negative impacts, of COVID-19. We have had to ensure that our health care system has the capacity to carry the increasing burden of treatment for those infected by COVID-19 to save lives, while ensuring that the provision of normal health care services is not adversely affected.
Drastic measures had to be taken to contain the spread of this pandemic, including the implementation of the lockdown which brought economic activities to a standstill, thereby impacting on jobs and sustainable livelihoods for many individuals and families.
As government, we have had to implement a raft of economic support and social security interventions to cushion the poor and vulnerable families from the harsh impacts of COVID-19. We have had to provide targeted support to struggling businesses and employees who had lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19.
While we have made significant strides in containing the COVID-19 pandemic, we are saddened that, as a nation, we have lost many lives as a result of COVID-19. Many families have lost their relatives who have succumbed to COVID-19. We have lost frontline workers who died in the line duty, paying the ultimate sacrifice, while trying to save the lives of others from COVID-19.
Our country has recorded close to 21 000 deaths from the coronavirus. Despite this loss of lives, we remain indebted to our healthcare workers and all other supporting essential workers, for their bravery and committed service on the frontline in their fight against this pandemic. That we have recorded more than 700 000 recoveries, is testament to their service to our nation.
The long journey continues. There is still more work ahead. COVID-19 continues to be part of our lives. We should continue to be vigilant, and ensure that we continue adhere to COVID-19 protocols. The reported rising number of infections remains a major cause for concern for all of us. We should continue to behave responsibly to save lives, and avoid any possible resurgence of COVID-19 infections that may result in further loss of lives.
As we deal with the dark cloud of COVID-19, the chilling pain of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide cuts deep into core foundations of our national consciousness, our identity, our humanity, and a collective sense nationhood. No nation can emerge from the ruins and destruction of its own women and children at the hands of men.
The renewal of this nation’s soul will lie in our collective commitment to putting an end to Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. The whole nation must rise, and mobilise every street, every community, every church, and every family to join the fight against the murder, and violation of women and children by men. Many lives of women and children have been lost as a result of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in our own communities.
Today, we have gathered here to bow our heads, and reflect on the new path ahead. We take this moment to commemorate and honour all those who have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19 and Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.
These twin epidemics of COVID-19 and Gender-Based Violence and Femicide continue to engulf our nation on an unprecedented scale. We have to work together as a nation to fight these pandemics so that we inspire hope, and galvanise the nation towards a common vision of unity, cohesion and shared prosperity.
In order to honour and remember all those who have lost their lives, the President has directed that from today, 25 November to 29 November 2020, the nation should embark on five days of mourning particularly for the victims of COVID-19.
During this period, the National Flag will be flown at half-mast throughout the country from 6am to 6pm.
We would also like to call upon all South Africans to wear a black armband, or ribbon, or any other sign that signifies an act of mourning in order to demonstrate our solemn respect for those who have passed away due to COVID-19 and Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.
We call on all families, communities and organisations to set up memorial corners where flowers, lit candles and any appropriate form of memorialisation is observed to remember and honour those who have lost their lives.
We will do this, not only as a sign of solidarity with all the families who have lost their loved ones, but to demonstrate our resilience and collective determination to overcome COVID-19 and the ugly face of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.
As we share their grief, we call on all our churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and houses of prayer to hold prayer sessions to support surviving families to cope with the loss of their loved ones.
Their loss is our loss as a nation. Even in such moments of sorrow and hardship, we are a nation that has, time and again, risen from all forms of adversity.
As we mourn, we are reminded of our collective obligation to make a difference in every way we can in our various leadership roles in society.
Our response to Gender-Based Violence and Femicide must be emphatic and uncompromising. It is a commitment of government, civil society formations and all other social partners to work together towards a sustained programme of action to curb Gender-based Violence and Femicide.
As part of this comprehensive programme, today marks the official commencement of our 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, which is hosted nationwide under the theme:
“Women’s Economic Justice for a non-violent and non-sexist South Africa.”
This is a focused programme to mobilise society as a whole to join and implement practical programmes aimed at fighting gender-based violence and femicide. The 16 Days of Activism campaign should be about concrete and tangible progress towards the end of violence against women and children. It should never be just simply an annual ritual in our calendar of events.
In a democratic and a human rights-centred country like ours, patriarchy cannot be used as a cultural basis for the oppression of women. Women can no longer live in servitude to men that have disregard for their lives and freedoms.
Therefore, we call on our communities to condemn any acts of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide and where such acts manifest themselves, they should be reported to the police.
Together we must build a society that places an enormous amount of its resources to the protection and development of women, to their well-being and their due recognition as leaders of our nation in all facets of human endeavour.
As society, we must collectively rally behind all national efforts and programmes to empower, protect, and promote the advancement and development of women and children. All sectors of society must promote the campaign on 16 Days of No Violence against Women and Children.
On this day, we call for the unity of purpose and commitment in tackling the fight against the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and Gender Based Violence and Femicide.
We are certain that if we work together as a nation to repair the social fabric of our society, victory is guaranteed. We can eradicate all these social ills, and together build a nation that is stronger and united.
I thank you.