Safety seems to remain elusive for women in South Africa. The minister of police, Bheki Cele, told parliament this month that 4,512 women were reported missing in the country between April 2016 and March 2019.
The Sowetan reports that Cele revealed the information in a written response to a question asked by Member of Parliament Nomsa Tarabella Marchesi.
Cele’s response shows that the number of women who are reported missing has been on the rise in recent years.
Between 2016 and 2017, Cele said that 1,206 women were reported missing. This figure rose to 1,481 in 2017-8; and between 2018 and 2019, the number rose again to 1,825 women.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a “profound and widespread problem in South Africa” according to Safer Spaces, an online portal that promotes community safety and security.
The site estimates that up to 40% of women in South Africa have experienced sexual or physical violence.
Meanwhile, crime statistics released by Cele in September 2019 revealed that 2,771 women were killed between 2018 and 2019, while 24,387 sexual offenses were reported in the same period.
In his written response in parliament, Cele also revealed that nearly 80% (3,598) of the total number of women who were reported missing were Africans.
The number of white, Indian, and coloured (identified as a specific racial group in South Africa since 1950) women who were reported missing stood at 258, 63, and 595 respectively.
GBV is rarely out of the national spotlight, and several high-profile cases have shocked the nation in recent years — including the murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana in August 2019 — and sparked renewed calls for President Cyril Ramaphosa to prioritise creating a safer South Africa.
In August 2018, gender activists staged national protests called the #TotalShutDown, which urged women and allies to stay away from work and instead join marches against GBV in various cities across South Africa.
The #TotalShutDown march in Pretoria ended at the Union Buildings, where President Ramaphosa was given a memorandum of demands outlining the actions needed to end GBV.
The #TotalShutDown was followed by South Africa's first-ever gender-based violence summit that was hosted by President Ramaphosa in Pretoria in October 2018.