South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa took to the podium on Wednesday evening to address the state of the country and the progress that has been made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ramaphosa sought to comfort the country throughout his speech, referring to the address for the first time as a “national family meeting” — a term coined by South Africans on social media and used throughout 2020 to refer to any time the president addresses the nation.
While his speech was largely to encourage citizens not to give up on COVID-19 prevention measures, and to announce the extension of the National State of Disaster, he took a moment to address the upcoming 16 Days of Activism campaign against gender-based violence (GBV).
Ramaphosa said that “we should honour and remember all those who have succumbed to this disease”, referring to COVID-19, and then went on to highlight that South Africans continue to lose their lives to GBV too. In recognition of this, the president and his cabinet have called for a week of national mourning from Nov. 25 until Nov. 29 for the lives lost to both issues.
“It will be appropriate that during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children — which is the second pandemic we are confronting — we demonstrate our remembrance of all those who have departed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and gender-based violence,” said Ramaphosa.
The period of mourning will be treated similarly to a state funeral. The national flag will fly at half-mast from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. every day, and citizens are encouraged to wear a black arm band or black clothing in order to show solidarity.
“Many of us have had to bid farewell to a loved one, a friend, or a colleague,” Ramaphosa continued. “As we look back on a year of much pain and sorrow, it is important as a nation that we should honour and remember all those who have succumbed to this disease.”
Although the rate of mortality from COVID-19 remains relatively low in South Africa, over 20,000 people have died from the virus and Ramaphosa has called on the nation to remember them.
“We cannot begin to calculate the loss and anguish that these deaths have caused,” he said.
Earlier this year Ramaphosa addressed the increased rate of femicide and gender-based violence seen during the lockdown period, where the month of June alone saw the reported deaths of at least 21 women from intimate partner violence.
“At a time when the pandemic has left us all feeling vulnerable and uncertain, violence is being unleashed on women and children with a brutality that defies comprehension,” he said.
“Their killers thought they could silence them,” he continued. “But we will not forget them and we will speak for them where they cannot. They are not just statistics. They have names and they had families and friends.”
Parliament is still in discussions to finalise the new laws that were proposed earlier this year to help bring justice to the victims of GBV and are set to announce any changes before the end of the year.
Launched in April by seven global partners, the ACT-Accelerator is a unique coalition aimed at accelerating global efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic. Its members are working together to develop tests, treatments, and vaccines as quickly as possible, while also strengthening the world’s most fragile health systems.
But the organization desperately needs financial support from governments around the world. You can join us in calling on world leaders to fund the ACT-Accelerator by taking action here.