COVID-19 and GBV victims remembered.

A recognition ceremony for those who lost their lives to Gender-Based Violence and the COVID-19 pandemic was recently held at the Union Buildings Amphitheatre in Pretoria. When giving his address, Deputy President, Mr David Mabuza said 2020 has been a very difficult year for the whole country. Mabuza said the COVID-19 pandemic brought disruptions and anxieties which had a great impact on lives and livelihoods and that South Africa made efforts and gathered resources to fight the spread and the impacts of the pandemic.

The Deputy President said they had to ensure that the country’s health care system has the capacity to carry the increasing burden of treatment for those infected by COVID-19, to save lives and to ensure that the provision of normal health care services is not affected. He said the government took drastic measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic which include implementing lockdown, which brought economic activities to a standstill and affected jobs and sustainable livelihoods for many individuals and families.

“As the government, we have had to implement a raft of economic support and social security interventions to cushion the poor and vulnerable families from the harsh impacts of COVID-19.  We have had to provide targeted support to struggling businesses and employees who had lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19. While we have made significant strides in containing the COVID-19 pandemic, we are saddened that, as a nation, we have lost many lives as a result of COVID-19. Many families have lost their relatives who have succumbed to COVID-19. We have lost frontline workers who died in the line duty, paying the ultimate sacrifice, while trying to save the lives of others from COVID-19,” said Mabuza.

Mabuza praised health care workers and their supporting staff, he said the country remains indebted to them for their bravery and commitment in the fight against the pandemic. He said the 700 000 recoveries are a testament to their service to the nation. Mabuza said despite this, there is still more work to be done, looking at the fact that the country has lost 21 000  lives to COVID-19. He also urged the public to continue to be vigilant and to adhere to COVID-19 protocols.  He said looking at the rising number of infections, members of the public should behave responsibly to avoid any possible resurgence of COVID-19 infections.

Mabuza also spoke about Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, saying the pain thereof cuts deeply into the nation’s consciousness, identity, humanity and its collective sense nationhood. He said no nation can emerge from the ruins and destruction of its own women and children at the hands of men. The Deputy President said the renewal of the country’s soul lies in its commitment to putting an end to Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. He said the whole nation must rise and mobilise every street, every community, every church, and every family to join the fight against the murder, and violation of women and children by men.

“Today, we have gathered here to bow our heads, and reflect on the new path ahead. We take this moment to commemorate and honour all those who have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19 and Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. These twin epidemics of COVID-19 and Gender-Based Violence and Femicide continue to engulf our nation on an unprecedented scale. We have to work together as a nation to fight these pandemics so that we inspire hope and galvanise the nation towards a common vision of unity, cohesion and shared prosperity,” said the Deputy President.

Mabuza also informed those present about President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call for the nation to embark on a five-day mourning period starting from the 25th to the 29th of November, 2020 particularly for the victims of COVID-19. He said during this period, the National Flag will be flown at half-mast throughout the country from 6am to 6pm.

He said the government would also like to call upon all South Africans to wear a black armband, ribbon or any other sign that shows an act of mourning  for the victims of COVID-19 and Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. He said they call on all families, communities and organisations to set up memorial corners where flowers, lit candles and any appropriate form of memorialisation is observed to remember and honour those who have lost their lives.

Mabuza said this will be done, not only as a sign of solidarity with all the families who have lost their loved ones, but also of nation’s resilience and collective determination to overcome COVID-19 and the ugly face of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.

“As we share their grief, we call on all our churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and houses of prayer to hold prayer sessions to support surviving families to cope with the loss of their loved ones. Their loss is our loss as a nation. Even in such moments of sorrow and hardship, we are a nation that has, time and again, rising from all forms of adversity. As we mourn, we are reminded of our collective obligation to make a difference in every way we can in our various leadership roles in society,” he said.

“Today marks the official commencement of our 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, which is hosted nationwide under the theme: “Women’s Economic Justice for a non-violent and non-sexist South Africa.” This is a focused programme to mobilise society as a whole to join and implement practical programmes aimed at fighting gender-based violence and femicide. The 16 Days of Activism campaign should be about concrete and tangible progress towards the end of violence against women and children. It should never be just simply an annual ritual in our calendar of events,” he continued.

Mabuza spoke against the use of patriarchy as a cultural basis for the oppression of women. He said women can no longer live in servitude to men that have disregard for their lives and freedoms. He also called upon communities to condemn any acts of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide and said that when such acts manifest themselves, they should be reported to the police.

“On this day, we call for the unity of purpose and commitment in tackling the fight against the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. We are certain that if we work together as a nation to repair the social fabric of our society, victory is guaranteed. We can eradicate all these social ills, and together build a nation that is stronger and united,” he concluded

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