Address of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki at the
Opening Ceremony of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, Motherwell, 25 November
Premier Nosimo Balindlela,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Executive Mayor, Nceba Faku,
Chief Executive Officer, Jacko Maree,
Ladies and gentlemen:
South Africans from all walks of life will remember that, at this time
every year, we unite as a nation to observe the 16 Days of Activism on No Violence
Against Women and Children.
This is in support of the national cause to unite
in the fight against violence and abuse of our women and children. We use this
occasion to renew our commitment to end brutal and dehumanising behaviour by some
in our society. We use this period to recommit our country to the inalienable
human rights of women and children.
I am certain that we all agree that
it is fitting that we dedicate this campaign this year to one of our fearless
fighters for freedom, for the rights of workers, of women and children, the late
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, comrade Joyce Kgoali, who passed
away last Sunday.
Her untimely loss has deprived us of a militant fighter
for the better life for all our people that would also mean safety, security and
happiness of the women and children of our country. We owe it to her to intensify
the struggle she waged, so that we achieve the objective of no violence against
women and children.
As we launch the 16 Days of Activism here today, we
need to remind ourselves that the promotion and protection of human rights is
an important and integral part of our programme for reconstruction and development.
Because women's and children's rights are human rights, it is therefore
important to ensure the continued centrality of women and children in sustainable
development strategies and programmes through which we are working for a better
life for all.
The connection between crime and poverty is well established.
But more significant perhaps, although less often mentioned, is the connection
between poverty and vulnerability to crime. Poor women and children are more likely
to be victimised because they enjoy fewer protections, less privacy and fewer
Similarly, their resilience in the face of victimisation is
considerably less and they are less likely to get the necessary assistance to
overcome it. All of us must take this matter very seriously that the reality we
face is that women and children living in conditions of poverty and deprivation
are most exposed to all forms of abuse.
To make a real difference in the
campaign to reduce the incidence of violence against women and children we must
work simultaneously to improve the material lives of our people, while working
in these communities to convince them that they too must join the struggle to
end violence against women and children.
In this regard, we must engage
in the kind of popular mobilisation we undertook during the struggle against apartheid,
reaching the people directly and showing them that freedom from apartheid must
also mean the freedom of women and children from violence and abuse.
interventions such as those that provide protections for children and the many
care-givers who sustain them are not only fundamental to our society - these interventions
are indispensable to the long-term development of the people of this country.
At the level of government, the importance of integrated work is most clearly
demonstrated, among others, in the workings of the Sexual Offences Courts.
this regard, The Departments of Justice and Constitutional Development, Social
Development, Safety and Security and Health have developed a National Strategy
to ensure that government resources are utilised in an integrated manner to ensure
effective outcomes. Central to this, is clearly the work done by both the SAPS
and the National Prosecuting Authority.
Despite everything we have done,
many in our society continue to experience domestic violence with a long-term
negative impact on women and children. It is therefore noteworthy that we have
experienced an overwhelmingly positive response to the Domestic Violence Legislation,
indicating that this intervention was long overdue.
As with the Sexual
Offences Courts, we will continue with the important work of training officials
in the criminal justice system so as to better deal with issues of domestic violence.
However, the experiences of women, in this country and globally, continue
to demonstrate, more than ever, that government intervention alone is not enough
to reduce the levels of violence against women and children.
must join this important campaign on a continuous and sustained basis. I refer
here to all the organisations and institutions that regularly interact with large
numbers of our people. These include political organisations, the religious communities,
sports organisations, civic associations, women's and youth organisations, and
I am confident that the 16 Days of Activism will create greater
awareness about the many forms of woman and child abuse, but more important, it
must increase the mobilisation of entire communities to continue to fight gender-based
and child-directed violence and marginalisation.
During the 16 Days of Activism,
NGOs, the private sector, faith-based organisations, government, state enterprises
and other role-players will band together to encourage a greater awareness of
the many forms of woman and child abuse that continue to taint our democracy.
Indeed, the 16 Days of Activism is a time for people to come together and
focus on a common problem, regardless of political persuasion, religious affiliation
or cultural background. The problem of woman and child abuse, after all, transcends
politics, religion, culture and all and any differences that may exist in our
Some among our people believe that offenders have more rights
than victims. We constantly hear disparaging and resentful comments about how
the Constitution affords offenders greater protection than it does the victims
of crime. As we know, this is a misrepresentation and is indicative, rather, of
a society still coming to grips with the principle of human rights for all. In
fact, the social justice imperatives of our Constitution presuppose a victim-centred
approach to legal and court processes.
At the same time, we are happy that
the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is close to finalising
the Victim Charter. Its implementation is expected to give additional support
to victims of crime and reduce the secondary victimisation that is frequently
experienced, especially by women and children, which often leads to withdrawal
But in addition to this, as communities we need to create widespread
awareness of how complicity with crime and criminal behaviour promotes crime.
We must hold a mirror to the face of our society and demonstrate the cost of sustaining
the market for stolen goods; of protecting and harbouring criminals and of colluding
with abusive attitudes towards women and children.
Clearly, if we are to
defeat crime we must educate ourselves about our role in helping to stop corruption
that steals from all of us and destroys the moral fabric of our society. We must
ensure that every South African makes an informed choice whether they are prepared
to be part of criminal behaviour or part of the prevention and defeat of crime.
As we all know, multitudes of South African women and children are wholly
or partially dependent on maintenance payments for their livelihood. In this regard,
defaulting maintenance payers are the cause of untold misery and degradation to
the children of this country.
Clearly, defaulters who have the means to pay
and choose instead to ignore their responsibilities as parents must be brought
to book. We trust that the employment of Maintenance Investigators combined with
recent drive by the National Prosecuting Authority to improve maintenance service
delivery will help to ensure parental accountability.
As we are aware,
South Africa has acceded to various international conventions, such as the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Children's Charter and the
Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoptions. In this regard, as government, we
continue to update our laws so as to conform to our own constitutional prescriptions
and international conventions.
The Department of Correctional Services
(DCS) has been tasked, by government, to coordinate the national campaign. The
success of the previous campaigns has been attributed to the formation of strategic
partnerships between government, civil society, business and a variety of other
sectoral partners - all united by a common cause: to eradicate the abuse of women
And this year, as more of our social partners participate
in the campaign, its impact and reach should broaden and expand. Over the past
three months the Office on the Status of Women (OSW), the Office on the Status
of the Child (OSC) and the Office on the Status of Disabled Persons (OSDP) - all
units within the Presidency - have been working with the Department of Correctional
Services, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) and other
sectoral partners to develop a national calendar of events that we hope will help
further to mobilise all South Africans to stand together to ensure that all the
women and children of our country fully enjoy equality, dignity, justice, freedom
and human rights.
We need to make each one of us understand that human
development and especially the development of women and children is in the best
interests of all - men and women alike.
Together we can and must defeat the
demon of woman and child abuse. This we will do, if we stand together and work
together, not pointing fingers at one another.
I thank you.
Cell: 083 256 9133
Issued by: The Presidency