MONDAY JuLY 27th 2020

Nompumelelo Tshaka

Nwabisa Mgwandela

Tshegofatso Pule 

Sibongiseni Gabada

Naledi Phangindawo


These are the names of just five of the Black South African women, killed by men in their life during the space of a month this year . 


The worst hit country on the continent of Africa for Covid 19, South Africa is in the midst of another crisis, with their Femcide rate at 5x the global average. During their lockdown, the government imposed an alcohol ban. When this was lifted on the 1st June, 29 women were killed, showing that alcohol could be one of the catalysts for this gender-based violence. But this problem is far more complex. 


Here are just a few stats to set the scene:


  • A woman is murdered every three hours in the nation 

  • More than 2700 women were killed in South Africa last year

  • As many as 51% of women in South Africa had experienced violence at the hands of someone they were in a relationship with

  • Black women in SA are more likely to be murdered by strangers than their white counterparts


But GBV is more than just murder. 114 rapes are reported each day in SA, and in 2018/19, 33,125 women reported rape, though it’s suspected that the rate is far higher. And when it comes to rape, the statistics around conviction tell a story that’s even more heartbreaking:


  • 42.2% of reported rapes in 2016/17 had no arrests

  • 23% of the adult rape cases evidence collection kits were not sent to police forensic science laboratories

  • And Rape has an 8% conviction rate. To put that into context the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) shows a 91.8% conviction rate for copper theft.


The President of South Africa Cyril Ramphosa last month addressed the nation saying, "As a man, as a husband, and as a father, I am appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and the children of our country" and whilst this sentiment is needed, it’s just not enough. Women rights activist Ngaa Murombedzi, told CNN. "It's not enough for the president to say we won't tolerate violence. We want accountability. The government cannot just be saying they are taking a strong stance when they're not acting. They need to put action with those words."


Last year President Ramphosa pledged $75m to strengthen the criminal justice system and provide better care for victims, following the brutal murder of university student Uyinene Mrwetyana. In June, he also called on lawmakers to process a series of amendments including minimum sentencing, and stiffer bail conditions for perpetrators. 

And whilst this is a step in the right direction, experts say this problem is deep rooted in SA stemming from the apartheid era, where women faced high levels of violence. We must not negate the fact that apartheid only ended in 1994 and the effects still reverbrate through South Africa’s society today. 


For example, the aftermath of the Bantu education system which effectively completely limited black South Africans’ access to education and meant they were only eligible for low skilled jobs, means many families have started on the back foot. In 2018 the World Bank said that the country remains the most economically unequal country in the world. And 

whilst the population is 75% black and only 9% white, the number of white South Africans earning more than $60,000 a year is 20 times higher than the number of black South Africans.


To put that into even clearer context;


“Ten percent of all South Africans — the majority white — owns more than 90 percent of national wealth… Some 80 percent of the population — overwhelmingly black — owns nothing at all.” — New York Times


Today, millions of black South Africans are chronically short of the capital needed to start businesses, less than half of the working age population is officially employed and the majority of black South Africans still live in Townships. 


We know statistically poverty and unrest leads to violence and in some cultures where patriarchal beliefs still reign strong, it’s unsurprising that the country's black women are in danger.


Gareth Newham, Head of the Justice and Violence Prevention program at the Institute of Security Studies told CNN "We need programs for men at their early childhood that educate them about different attitudes and they'll see women as their equals and will be less likely to use violence at all when they grow up," 


In conclusion, we need to keep addressing these problems on a global scale and stand with our South African sisters. We definitely can’t expect a police system that is statistically full of corruption to fix this problem. This is going to take education and prominent voices speaking out.


To learn more about this issue, here are a few more articles: