SONA2023: We Have Heard Enough Promises, Now We Want Action

SONA2023: We Have Heard Enough Promises, Now We Want Action

As President Cyril Ramaphosa sets out to deliver his 7th State of the Nation Address (SONA), we are holding our breaths in anticipation of less promises and more action to address gender inequity health care, economic security, gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide, that has claimed the lives of one too many South Africans.
SONA2023: We Have Heard Enough Promises, Now We Want Action

The address will be closely watched by South Africans and the international community, as it will provide an indication of the governments’ priorities and direction in the coming year. 

This comes after the shocking crime statistics that were reported by the minister of justice at the end of 2022, citing an increase in the killing of women, girls and LGBTQIA+ persons.

As an intersectional feminist organisation, our mission is to ensure that these groups enjoy substantive equality and access to resources and opportunities that enable them to reach their full potential. However, ours and the work of other civil society organisations in the country is limited by the lack of government proactiveness. 

Ahead of this SONA, we are expecting that the President will make a full investment in the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (NSP on GBVF) and its recommendations to end GBVF. This includes investing in sexual and reproductive health services in rural and underserved areas, educating law enforcement and traditional leaders on how to handle GBV and not further traumatise survivors, and investing more in Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs). We believe that these investments are essential to create a safer society for all and to ensure that no one is left behind. 

Additionally, we are concerned about the high rates of teenage pregnancy, where in most cases pupils are being raped by teachers. An appropriate response to this social ill would be the immediate removal of teachers who have been accused and found guilty of statutory rape, as well as a further look into all other issues that create a barrier to girls’ education.

The recent passing of Ntokozo Xaba, a student at the Tshwane University of Technology who was brutally murdered is an indicator of a great need for policies that address violence and abuse in institutions of higher learning. It is essential that tangible solutions are found to address these issues and that the government works together with communities and social justice organisations to achieve this. By engaging with these stakeholders, the government can gain a better understanding of the root causes of these issues, and devise strategies to address them, without further marginalising vulnerable groups.

The South African healthcare system needs better administration of funds this year to ensure that it does not hang on the edge of a cliff. We also need to see more action taken to ensure that the necessary resources are allocated to healthcare and that the funds are used in an effective and efficient manner. By taking the necessary steps to improve the administration of funds, we can ensure that the South African healthcare system is well-equipped to meet the needs of its citizens.

Furthermore, accessing healthcare continues to be a challenge for those at the receiving end of transphobia, xenophobia, ableism and sex work stigma. It has become increasingly important for the government to take a clear stance on these issues in order to create awareness about how discriminatory attitudes hold our country back. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill of 2022, which seeks to decriminalise the purchasing and sales of sex services is a step in the right direction and we hope that the President will shine light on how the decriminalisation of sex work is essential to achieving gender equality. 

We also look forward to hearing how the government plans to address the energy crisis, following a year of heavy power cuts. The current state of our economy is evidence of the fact that load shedding is not a substantial solution and cannot go on any longer. 

In addition to the country not being a safe place for women, girls and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, being in the dark further decreases our safety and security. The lack of a consistent and affordable power supply is an emergency that must be tackled immediately as it disproportionately affects vulnerable groups.

The history of the SONA has been more talk and less action, however we are hopeful that the President has been listening to us and his speech will reflect the governments’ willingness to reduce the socio-economic issues that keep most of the population in poverty, further exposing them to different forms of violence. 

We must act swiftly to ensure South Africa is a safe place for all its citizens.

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