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Violence against women and foreigners a 'national emergency': Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation

04 September 2019 - 15:26 By Dan meyer
Picket against femicide, violence against women and girls outside the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation on Tuesday.
Picket against femicide, violence against women and girls outside the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation on Tuesday.
Image: Supplied

"The very foundations of our society must be rebuilt."

That is the view of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation which on Wednesday described the violence against women in the country and clashes with foreign-born residents as a "national emergency".

"On Tuesday, September 3 2019, two strands of South Africa’s brokenness converged: gender and xenophobic violence," read a statement issued by the foundation's CEO, Piyushi Kotecha.

"As protest meetings were held on university campuses following the murder by a man of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana five people were murdered in Johannesburg in clashes between local and foreign-born residents.

"These were regrettably not random acts of violence; they reflect a national emergency," she said. "The very foundations of our society must be rebuilt."

Kotecha said that in order to stem violence against women, society would have to be rewired from a grass roots level, starting in schools. 

"Effective law enforcement is urgent, but so too are steps to embed gender and prejudice consciousness across our education system – and the whole of society.

"The process should start with the curricula of schools, from preschool to primary and high school. From there, principles of equality, tolerance and respect should be integrated into compulsory modules at TvET colleges and universities," she said. 

And the messaging should be reinforced in communities, organisations, public institutions, at work and at home.

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She said that as easily as prejudice was learnt, so too could those ideas be abandoned.

"Prejudice is learnt behaviour that can be un-learnt. In South Africa, it is a systemic problem requiring systemic solutions," she said. 

Alluding to a speech made by former Archbishop Desmond Tutu six years ago, Kotecha said that men had historically been the culprits of violent crime. 

"As the archbishop said on Women’s Day six years ago, men’s physical strength equipped them well to hunt mammoths and later saw them leading the slave trade, robbing, raping, pillaging and ruling the world.

“Times have changed, but many men have not," said Tutu. "And in some respects, nor has our world changed much, either.”

Since August 28 2019, Gauteng’s streets have become the scene of widespread protests, looting and violence. In the space of a week, many streets have become like a war-zone.