The wheels of justice turn slow for victims of gender-based violence and femicide

In April, Namhla Mtwa was gunned down as she arrived home from work. The Eastern Cape South African Police Service (SAPS) confirmed that the multiple gunshot wounds to her upper body caused her death. Yet, a month later, her family has to resort to pleading on social media to get any action from the police.

In desperation, her sister, Sanga Nozintathu Mtwa, took to social media pleading for justice which sparked a public outcry that reverberated across the country.

But why should it take a public outcry for Namhla’s family – and many other families – to get closure and justice for their loved ones? In her book Femicide in South Africa, Dr Nechama Brodie writes that the media often creates prominence for one femicide case over the other, which in turn gets attention from the government who promise swift action.

But what happens to the cases that do not make it to social media?

Like Thembisa (not her real name), who was brutally raped by a man she considered to be a friend. Her case was thrown out of court because she was told she waited too long to go to the doctor, despite the fact that the doctor determined that the injuries she sustained were consistent with those of a sexual assault survivor. Thembisa, who lived in a small town, was forced to see her rapist on a daily basis. She lost all faith in the legal system. There are many women like Thembisa, who will never see justice.

The Soul City Institute is appalled that Namhla Mtwa and many other women who have lost their lives in our country are left with the pain of not seeing justice served. Why is it taking this long for Namhla Mtwa’s family to see any kind of progress on her case? Why are the femicide rates in South Africa - that are five times the global average – still so high?

While we acknowledge the development of the National Strategic Plan for Gender-based Violence and Femicide, it is high time we see its implementation and for the justice system to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice swiftly and effectively. The femicide epidemic in South Africa is not new and requires the total urgency of government, civil society and society in general to put an end to this through addressing the underlying socio-economic factors that lead to this over and over again. At the core of this is patriarchy and misogyny, without eradicating and unlearning both we will find ourselves yet again.

We celebrate Africa Day with heavy hearts. It is not yet Uhuru for the many women and children of South Africa, the freedom that Africa celebrates is still a pipe dream for many of its citizens.

For media interviews, contact:
Phinah Kodisang, CEO of the Soul City Institute for Social Justice
email: phinah@soulcity.org.za, 011 771 7900

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