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President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday condemned as “barbaric” and “acts of inhumanity” a surge of femicides since South Africa eased anti-coronavirus stay-at-home measures.
Murders of women have spiralled since the start of June, when lockdown restrictions were loosened allowing for more movement of people, according to the police.
Speaking at a ruling African National Congress virtual meeting, Ramaphosa said gender-based violence “continues to plague our country and we have been saddened by the continuous and recurring news of men attacking and killing women in the past few weeks.”
“Men continue to kill women in the most horrific and barbaric fashion” he said, warning “it must end”.
In a weekly newsletter earlier, he described the attacks as “acts of inhumanity”.
One of the most gruesome attacks was that of an eight-months pregnant woman whose stabbed body was found hanging from a tree in Roodepoort, a western suburb of Johannesburg.
Five days later, the body of another young woman was found on Friday dumped under a tree in Soweto.
Police have reported several other cases of femicide across the country in recent days.
The reasons for the sudden increase are being investigated. Police Minister Bheki Cele has said that an overall rise in crime was caused by the lifting of a ban on the sale of alcohol.
On Saturday Ramaphosa referred to the past week as “a dark and shameful week for us as a nation”.
“We note with disgust that at a time when the country is facing the gravest of threats from the pandemic, violent men are taking advantage of the eased restrictions on movement to attack women and children,” he said in a statement.
Ramaphosa called on young men to become even more active in fighting gender-based violence as he spoke on the eve of the 44th anniversary of the June 16 Soweto massacre of black school children by the apartheid regime.
Springbok rugby captain Siya Kolisi joined calls to end femicide saying “enough is enough”.
“Let’s be the generation of men to break this attack on women,” he said to his half-a-million Instagram followers.
South Africa is ranked among countries with one of the highest levels of intimate partner violence in the world.
A woman is killed every three hours in South Africa, according to police statistics — a rate five times the world average. Around one in two are murdered by men with whom they had a close relationship.