On Tuesday 25th November President Jacob Zuma launched the 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women and Children campaign in Rieger Park in Johannesburg under the theme: “Count me in: Together moving a non-violent South Africa forward.” On Saturday, 29th November five COSATU affiliates; POPCRU, NEHAWU, SATAWU, CEPPWAWU and SADTU took to the streets of Bloemfontein to raise awareness about the social ill that claims many lives.
COSATU Deputy General-Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali, National Office Bearers of the five affiliates, Provincial leaders from the Tri-partite Alliance, Provincial Office Bearers and members of COSAS led the march to Lebohang Building, office of the Premier, Ace Magashule to hand over a memorandum of demands.
Dressed in red t-shirts the marchers moved peacefully from Batho Police station in song and dance. Three Police vehicles including a Police Nyala escorted the crowd. Carrying placards with messages that read; Don’t be a victim break the silence, Workers living with HIV/AIDS are still workers with rights, Don’t be a victim act against abuse and Zero Stigma and Discrimination. Marchers made sure that passer-by’s and motorists got the message. Ordinary citizens also joined the march supporting the cause.
According to the recent crime statistics released this year by the Police Ministry contact crimes have increased by 0.5% as compared to last year. This means that everyday women and children are exposed to rape, murder, sexual offences, and common assault amongst other crimes.
Violence against women, children and the elderly is growing at an alarming rate and the Police cannot win the fight alone. During the release of the Stats, the police called upon the country’s citizens to play a part in promoting safety and cohesion in our communities. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness to the public and hearten victims of abuse to speak out.
Before handing over the memorandum of demands COSATU Deputy General-Secretary, Bheki Ntshalintshali encouraged victims to speak out regardless of who the perpetrators is and that communities speak with a united voice against abuse. Ntshalintshali said these cases need to be reported to law enforcement agencies and he furthered appealed to the public to stand as witnesses before the court. He said many gender-based abuses get dismissed due to lack of evidence caused by witness withdrawal or refusal. Demands contained in the memorandum included the following:
- Perpetrators should not be arrested but they should be convicted and get harsher sentences
- We demand adequate training for the police to conduct investigations and the availability of enough resources for the police to do their job effectively.
- We demand that government follow the model of sector policing and ensure that in every ward there is a legal representative to attend to urgent referrals on violence against women and children.
- We call on our government to develop programmes to raise awareness on the rights of women and children and to mainstream such awareness that it becomes part of all the government programmes.
Before reciting the demands on HIV and Aids, Ntshalintshali praised the government on its commitment to the National Health Insurance (NHI) which is aimed at ultimately providing free, universal and quality health care to all South Africans. Among the demands by the five unions pertained in the memorandum included the following:
- The demand on the immediate release of the White Paper on NHI in line with the ANC’s commitments in the 2014 ANC manifesto in order to build a Health system that will deal with the scourge of HIV.
- We demand the dismantling of the unholy alliance of the big private hospitals that feasts off sick especially those who are infected and affected with HIV. Health should no longer continue to be a commodity, it remains a basic human right and must be protected as such.
- GEMS, like other medical aid schemes that have outsourced their administration, have seen costs rising at double the rate when compared to schemes in which administration has been kept in-house or in-sourced. We therefore demand that GEMS must be publicly administered to keep pace with the rate of medical inflation to ensure that members do not run out of funds early in the year with the consequent catastrophic results for those with chronic diseases.
- Women (especially young women and girls) face increased risk of HIV infection, this call for more effective enabling interventions. Risk-enhancing factors include alcohol abuse, violence against women and social economic insecurity there are many people accessing ARVs which has huge impact on available domestic resources.
Ntshalintshali called on government to set up a process in which the demands would be addressed and finalised as soon as possible. The memorandum was signed and accepted by General Moeketsi Sempe on behalf of the Provincial Police Commissioner and two representatives from the office of the Premier. They promised to convey it to the relevant departments and offices. After a lengthy but productive day, marchers gathered at a local park in the city centre before dispersing to the different corners of the Free State Province.