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Ramaphosa slams criminals exploiting lockdown

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‘Despicable that criminals are using this period of the lockdown as a cover to break the law at a time when our law-enforcement authorities are occupied with supporting the national effort to contain the pandemic’

PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa used his weekly ‘From the desk of the President’ letter to South Africans to slam criminals who are using the cover of the coronavirus lockdown to commit crime.

In his weekly letter on Monday, Ramaphosa said that since the start of the lockdown on March 27, the majority of South Africans have respected the rules of the lockdown and the rights of others, but there were “some among us seeking to exploit this crisis for their own sinister ends”.

“It is a great indictment of our society that dozens of schools have been burgled, trashed or burnt to the ground. When the lockdown is lifted and learning resumes, thousands of our children will have no school to return to, depriving them of the right to education,” Ramaphosa said.

In addition, he said that Eskom has also reported an increase in cable theft and vandalism of its infrastructure since the lockdown began, resulting in power supply interruptions and damage that will cost a considerable amount to repair.

“That public property is being vandalised while the entire country is experiencing hardship because of the lockdown, is a demonstration of utter disrespect and disregard for the majority of South Africans who are law-abiding. It is despicable that criminals are using this period of the lockdown as a cover to break the law at a time when our law-enforcement authorities are occupied with supporting the national effort to contain the pandemic,” he said.

Ramaphosa also noted the murders of a police constable, the rape and murder of a KZN granny and a teenage Soweto girl during the lockdown.

“Our hearts go out to the family of Mama Ngenzeni Zuma who was raped and killed in KwaZulu-Natal last month by men who allegedly pretended to be soldiers to gain entry into her home. We feel the pain of the family of 14-year-old Simphiwe Sibeko who went missing from her Soweto home, and whose body was found dumped in bushes last week. As a nation, we are saddened at the death of Constable Percy Ramalepe who was shot and killed while attending to a domestic violence call in Johannesburg last week,” he said.

Ramaphosa said that the number of women and young girls experiencing gender-based violence in their homes have spiked since the lockdown, not just in South Africa but globally.

 “Last week the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message that since restrictions were imposed by countries around the world to contain the coronavirus, women and girls were increasingly facing violence ‘where they should be safest: in their own homes’. While reaffirming that lockdowns and quarantines were essential, Secretary-General Guterres said they were trapping women with abusive partners, resulting in ‘a horrifying global surge in domestic violence’,” Ramaphosa added, noting that according to the UN in some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled.

 In South Africa, the government has prioritised dealing with gender-based violence during the coronavirus lockdown by keeping the  Gender-Based Violence National Command Centre operational.

“Support services to vulnerable women and children remain operational throughout the lockdown, including psycho-social services like counselling for women and children, sheltering and places of safety, and medico-legal services in cases of sexual violence … We recognise since people may not leave their homes, women and children in abusive situations are vulnerable. Survivors of violence may not have access to phones or airtime, or public transport to take them to a police station, shelter or a doctor,” Ramphosa said.