The Soul City Institute welcomes President Ramaphosa’s decision to withdraw from The Chairman’s Conversation

The Soul City Institute for Social Justice welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to withdraw from The Chairman’s Conversation convened on the 28th November 2019 by PowerFM and facilitated by its Chief Executive Officer, Mr Given Mkhari.

The Soul City Institute, as well as other gender activists, women’s rights activists, civil society organisations, and the intersectional womxn’s movement, have consistently called for men and boys to be held accountable for their words and their actions. 

Accountability starts at the top. 

Research undertaken by the SCI as an intersectional feminist organisation with a long history of work on gender-based violence (GBV) has consistently shown that the idea of domestic violence as a ‘private’ or ‘family matter’ remains deeply embedded in South Africa.

Violence against women – in the home, in public spaces, in private spaces, in all spaces – is not a ‘private’ matter, but a fundamental violation of women’s human rights.  The idea that intimate partner violence is a ‘private matter’ contributes to the culture of ‘turning a blind eye’ to epidemic of violence against women.  Women have a right to privacy and the right to be safe and protected within the ‘privacy’ of homes.

Mr and Mrs Mkhari are entitled to their privacy, however in inviting the President to the The Chairman’s Conversation made the event one of public interest.  The invitation to the President of the Republic brought the allegations of domestic violence against Mr Mkhari back into the public domain and made it a matter of public interest.

South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women.  Challenging social discourses and shifting norms and attitudes that drive violence against women is critical in the campaign to eliminate VAW.   The idea that ‘boys will be boys’, that VAW is a ‘family matter’, that men are entitled to discipline ‘their’ women, are just some of the social discourses driving violence against women and girls.

In light of President Ramaphosa’s stated commitments to addressing the epidemic of femicide and gender-based violence, the SCI calls on the President to continue to lead in challenging social norms that entrench patriarchy and enable toxic masculinities.   Men and boys can be allies in the struggle to end GBV in South Africa.  Men and boys have a responsibility to unlearn harmful ideas and practices of toxic masculinity.

African Bank, one of the sponsors of the Conversation, described The Chairman’s Conversation  as “a platform to give all South Africans the opportunity to better understand the environment in which they are living. Power 98.7 will be exploring the leadership question as we don’t have the luxury of “business as usual”.

South African women and girls, indeed, do not have the luxury of ‘business as usual’ in the environments in which they live and in the context of an epidemic of violence that is the daily reality for millions.  Business, corporate entities and private institutions are not immune to the scourge.  GBV has an enormous cumulative economic impact on  the government, the private sector and on society.

The social cost of not addressing GBV can have far-reaching consequences for all concerned, including the private sector. For the business sector, costs are incurred by decreased work functionality, absenteeism and staff turnover. For the victims/survivors who work, high absenteeism may result in a loss of income and even job loss. This economic setback is further compounded by additional expenses incurred when seeking support services, such as traveling to police stations or courts, seeking medical care, psychological support and so on. Long-term costs include but are not limited to legal fees, medical and psychological treatment, ongoing court dates and follow-up.[1]

A 2014 KPMG estimates that between 0.9%-1.3% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (i.e. R 24-42 billion) is required to meet the costs associated with GBV.  For every contact a woman affected by IPV (and her children) makes with State services, costs are incurred to government which impacts on South Africa’s economic growth and stability[2].

The SCI calls on Mr Mkhari and all ‘chairmen’ and other leaders in the public and private sector to lead from the top in the fight against GBV.  Accountability does not imply the assumption of guilt.  The call for accountability to men of high office and in influential positions to take accountability is a call to men to grapple with the ways in which their actions condone or contribute to GBV and to begin to engage on ways in which they can contribute meaningfully to the eradication of GBV in their businesses, their homes, and in society.  

One of the stated aims of PowerFM’s “Chairman’s Conversation” is to discuss ‘the most pressing needs facing the country’.

The low-grade civil war being waged against women, girls and gender non-conforming people, is the most pressing issue facing South Africa today.  

[1] Policy brief by the Commission for Gender Equality  2013
[2] KPMG (2014).  Too Costly to Ignore: The Economic Impact of GBV in SA

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