Stun grenades explode outside WEF as protesters mob venue
Protesters declare the president ‘missing’ as murderous attacks against women and children, as well as foreigners, tarnish SA’s image
Angered by the recent spate of violent attacks against women and children in South Africa, thousands of protesters gathered outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre on September 4 2019. The venue is where the World Economic Forum on Africa is being held, hosting delegates from around the world.
Protesters demanding to hear from President Cyril Ramaphosa surrounded Cape Town International Convention Centre on Wednesday as the four-day World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa got underway. Police used stun grenades and pepper spray in an attempt to disperse them.
The crowd was demanding to hear from the president about the government’s response to gender-based violence (GBV).
Several thousand students who demonstrated outside parliament following the rape and murder of University of Cape Town first-year Uyinene Mrwetyana made their way to the convention centre.
Police inside the convention centre instructed delegates not to go near the windows.
Protesters broke through a police cordon at the Heerengracht traffic circle and ran to the convention centre, where dozens of African leaders are among the delegates.
Bedlam broke out as the crowd arrived at the convention centre’s main door. Scuffles broke out with police tried to prevent them entering and drive them back.
Heerengracht filled with protesters under the sky bridge linking the convention centre’s two buildings, disrupting traffic in the CBD.
The crowd chanted “We want Cyril” and “We want justice” as Ramaphosa attempts to enhance SA’s international image as an investment destination.
With widescale looting and xenophobic violence taking place in Gauteng, and a series of attacks on women and children countrywide, social media is bristling with posts declaring the president “missing”.
When Olive Shisana, from the president’s interim committee on GBV and femicide tried to address the crowd, she was booed.
Protesters with duct tape over their mouths and dressed in black demanded to know what tangible steps the government is taking to address the crisis. Shisana said the interim committee had nearly completed its public consultations and is taking a “scientific approach to find out how to address the problem”.
The protesters were unswayed, demanding to know what the budget was for government’s strategy and when the first steps would be taken.
One told Shisana: “We have rape survivors here. We are here today not to tell of our survival stories but because of our body counts. We are no longer surviving rapes. We are here today because it’s no longer rape. We are being raped and murdered.”
Shisana told TimesLIVE the criminal justice system is not addressing the problem and there is a societal problem with the way young boys are raised. “Boys are being raised to think they are more valuable that girls,” she said.
Shisana said the interim committee still has to visit two provinces as part of its information-gathering phase, after which a “scientifically based” strategy would be devised and implemented.
“Today our team is still going around around the country to consult women on how to address GBV,” she said. “We can’t develop it in the presidency without involving women around the country. I felt I should take a risk and talk to them because I empathise with them.”