South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa urges action against 'rape crisis'

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during the election manifesto launch of the African National Congress in Durban on 12 January 2019Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Cyril Ramaphosa urged all men in the stadium to stand to condemn violence against women

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged men to unite against rape and sexual assault in the country, calling it a "national crisis".

Women were being raped and killed on a continuous basis and it was time to end gender-based violence, he said.

He made his impassioned plea while launching an election manifesto for the governing African National Congress.

Some 40,000 rapes are reported every year, though this is thought to be only a fraction of the real total.

The president asked men in the packed Durban stadium, where tens of thousands of supporters watched his speech, to stand to show their condemnation.

"We have made huge strides in improving the position of women in society... However, gender-based violence is a national crisis that we are determined to end, so that all South African women and girls may live in peace, safety and dignity, " he said.

"The emancipation of women requires a change in attitudes and the material conditions that perpetuate the oppression and marginalisation of women."

He outlined a number of measures to achieve this, including harsher sentences for perpetrators, and "better skilled" police and prosecution authorities "to improve the capacity to investigate and prosecute all crimes".

"It is important that children learn from a young age to respect one another as equals and not to resort to violence in situations of stress and conflict."

Media caption,

South Africa's Diepsloot township: 'My neighbour is a rapist'

Overall, his speech sought to mark a clear break with a decade of drift and misrule under his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding reports.

Mr Ramaphosa promised competence and honesty - barely addressing populist issues like land reform - and focusing instead on ways to tackle rural poverty, and the world's highest rate of youth unemployment, our correspondent adds.

South African police recorded 40,035 rapes in the 12 months leading to 31 March 2018, an average of 110 each day, the fact-checking organisation Africa Check reported last year.

This represented a slight increase on the previous year, which saw 39,828 recorded rapes.