S. African leader condemns violence against women as assault film goes viral

by Kim Harrisberg | @KimHarrisberg | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 6 March 2019 21:27 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation address at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa February 7, 2019. Rodger Bosch/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

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A video apparently showing a popular singer being attacked by her boyfriend sparked outrage in a country with some of the world's worst rates of violent crime

(Adds statistics on violence against women in eighth paragraph)

By Kim Harrisberg

JOHANNESBURG, March 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - South Africa's president condemned violence against women on Wednesday after a video apparently showing a popular singer being attacked by her boyfriend went viral, sparking outrage in a country with some of the world's worst rates of violent crime.

The clip released on Instagram showed Bongekile Simelane, who goes by the stage name Babes Wodumo, being hit repeatedly. Her boyfriend Mandla Maphumulo has been charged with assault and released on bail, police said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has a "special abhorrence of violence against women and children", his spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on WhatsApp.

"We have full confidence that our law enforcement agencies will leave no stone unturned in the quest to ensure this heinous deed does not go unpunished."

Women's rights campaigners backed Simelane's decision to share the video in the face of criticism from some quarters, saying it was "important as a society to understand the complex dynamics of gender-based violence (GBV)".

"We must not victim blame. And in this case, we should not judge the decision of Ms Simelane to expose the actions of her abuser via social media," said Sonke Gender Justice, a campaign group.

South Africa's last president, Jacob Zuma, said violent attacks against women and children represented a national "crisis" and last year, activists held a nationwide march against gender violence under the #TotalShutdown banner.

The rate at which women are killed by men in South Africa is more than five times higher than the global average, according to the World Health Organisation.

One of the activists, Lesley Ncube, criticised the decision to grant Maphumulo bail, saying it put Simelane at risk.

"We are watching a broken system play itself out again and again," said Ncube.

"Having a march has given women the power to talk about abuse, to say, 'me too'."

The ruling African National Congress party condemned violent behaviour in a statement on Monday, calling "on women who suffer in silence to take back their power from these criminals and make their voices heard". (Reporting by Kim Harrisberg, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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