South Africa says 2 pandemics now, virus and gender violence

A passenger wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, travels on a bus in Cape Town, South Africa, Wednesday June 17, 2020. The country now has more than a quarter of the coronavirus cases on the 54-nation African continent. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)
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South Africa now faces two pandemics, COVID-19 and the violence against women and children that has risen sharply since alcohol sales were allowed again on June 1, the president said Wednesday as he announced further easing of lockdown measures. Twenty-one women and children have been killed.

South Africa has between a third and a quarter of all coronavirus cases on the African continent — more than 80,000 — and half of those cases have been confirmed over the past two weeks, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a national address.

“What was once a distant disease is coming much closer,” he said.

But he announced further lockdown easing under pressure from business leaders and informal workers, many of them women, who have said the 100 days of restrictions have inflicted enormous financial pain.

Restaurants will now be able to offer sit-down meals. Hotels, cinemas and hairdressers can operate. Non-contact sports like golf and tennis can resume.

Ramaphosa did not give comprehensive data on the jump in violent crime since June 1, when alcohol sales returned and South Africans lined up to buy. But he said cases of abuse of women and children have “increased dramatically.”

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and the girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country: the killing of women and children by the men of our country,” he said, calling it a “brutality that defies any form of comprehension.”

South Africa has long had a serious problem with such violence, but Ramaphosa draw a direct connection between it and alcohol abuse.

“Of course it is not alcohol that rapes or kills woman or a child. rather it is the actions of the men of our country,” he said, but “we need to draw lessons from this lockdown and protect our society from the abuse of alcohol.”

He said he believes that both pandemics can be overcome.