- President Cyril Ramaphosa was hastily rushed to the Union Buildings to personally receive a memorandum from protesters taking part in the #TotalShutDown march on Wednesday night
- Earlier the women taking part in the march tried to force their way into the grounds of the buildings and demanded to be personally addressed by Ramaphosa
- Police were forced to use pepper spray to disperse the crowd, something which Ramaphosa apologised for during his address
President Cyril Ramaphosa was rushed to the Union Buildings late on Wednesday night to meet with protesters taking part in the #TotalShutDown march. Ramaphosa had to personally intervene after protesters refused to back down from their demands to hand over a memorandum to the president in person.
The protest action took a nasty turn earlier in the day as thousands of women and those who identify as gender non-conformists taking part in the march tried to force their way onto the grounds of the Union Buildings. Police resorted to using pepper spray to disperse the crowd in an attempt to regain control of the situation.
Ramaphosa had initially delegated the duty of receiving the memorandum to Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor who he felt was sufficiently sensitive to the issues raised by the protesters.
Briefly.co.za gathered that this proved to be a miscalculation on the part of Ramaphosa. The protesters refused to deal with Pandor and instead continued to hold vigil until the president himself received the memorandum.
Ramaphosa apologised to the protesters once he arrived and said once he had been made aware that the group would not engage with Pandor he made arrangements to get to the Union Buildings.
Ramaphosa said he had come to meet with the protesters out of respect and not only to receive their memorandum and demands. The president also apologised for the action of police officers who had earlier use pepper spray.
Ramaphosa said the actions of the police would be investigated and appropriate action would be taken where deemed necessary. He said it if the police were guilty of what the crowd accused them off it was unacceptable.
Citizen.co.za reported that Ramaphosa said as head of state he had a deep respect for women in the country not only because women represented a majority of the population but more importantly because they were human beings.
The president thanked the group for delivering a detailed and comprehensive memorandum and assured the crowd that he would study its contents in details. Ramaphosa said the document highlighted in painful detail what the issues and challenges are faced by women in South Africa.
He said the document would go help the government to formulate a strategy which was based on the needs and experiences of real women in the country. Ramaphosa thanked the women for being brave in their campaign.
Ramaphosa said the government needed to improve its campaigns to highlight gender-based violence and that the #TotalShutDown march of 1 August should be remembered by future generations as a turning point in the fight against gender-based crimes.
News24.com reported that the president promised that he would arrange a gender summit as per the demands of the protesters.
The march to the Union Buildings was made up of around 2,000 women and gender non-conformists who wanted to highlight the plight of women in the country and bring issues such as abuse, inequality and oppression into the national spotlight.
South African women have long suffered some of the worst gender-based violence and inequality of any society in the world.
The march to Union Buildings was one of several such marches which took place around the country.
August marks the start of what has traditionally become known as women's month in South Africa and is usually a time when the government steps up its campaigns to highlight gender-based violence.
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