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Hundreds protest against gender violence in South Africa

The rally was prompted by two recent brutal murders that have triggered outcry

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Hundreds protest against gender violence in South Africa
People hold up placards reading 'Am I next?' and 'This is a femicide epidemic, but it's time to fight back' as they take part in a protest against the abuse of women by men outside parliament in Cape Town on September 4, 2019, after 19-year-old UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and killed on August 24. - Hundreds of people on September 4 rallied against murder and rape of women in South Africa at the start of the World Economic Forum on Africa being held in Cape Town. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP)

Scores of women demonstrated against South Africa’s “femicide epidemic” as the World Economic Forum on Africa kicks off in Cape Town on Wednesday, amid growing alarm over gender violence in the country.

Some 500 demonstrators — mainly young women — gathered in front of the conference venue, where government and business leaders are gathered for the three day meeting, with an effort to draw attention to recent high-profile rapes and killings.

With chants of “we want justice”, protesters carried banners that read “Am I next?”, “Rape is a man’s issue” and “This is a femicide epidemic, but it’s time to fight back”. Some scuffled with police outside the venue.

One demonstrator, 19-year-old Amber Wehr, said the protests were “not about attacking men but attacking the system that protects men and that offers them inherent privilege”.

The rally was prompted by two recent brutal murders that have triggered outcry and much soul-searching in a country that is often seen as one of the world’s most dangerous places for women and often appears numb to murder and sexual violence.

Hundreds protest against gender violence in South Africa
A picture of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old university student, who was raped and killed on August 24, 2019, is attached at a barrier in front of the Clareinch Post Office in the Claremont suburb in Cape Town on September 4, 2019. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP)

In one case, University of Cape Town student, Uyinene “Nene” Mrwetyana, 19, was raped and bludgeoned to death when she went to a post office.

In another boxing champion, Leighandre “Baby Lee” Jegels, 25, was allegedly shot dead by her partner, who was a police officer. 

Last year South Africa recorded a 6.9 per cent increase in the numbers of murders countrywide, with an average 57 murders committed each day and at least 137 sexual offences are committed per day, according to official figures.

Women Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said more than 30 women were killed by their spouses last month alone.

“This is a very dark period for us as a country. The assaults, rapes and murders of South African women are a stain on our national conscience,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement on Tuesday.

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Southern Africa

South Africa’s apex court rules spanking children as unconstitutional

The court upheld a 2017 ruling that sentenced a father for assaulting his 13-year-old son for watching a pornographic film

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South Africa's apex court rules spanking children as unconstitutional
The Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, South Africa. (File photo)

South Africa’s highest court on Wednesday upheld a ruling that spanking or corporal punishment of children at home was unconstitutional, saying the practices violate child rights.

In a much-awaited decision, the South African Constitutional Court backed a 2017 court ruling that sentenced a father for assaulting his 13-year-old son for watching a pornographic film. 

A religious freedom group had challenged that case, saying while it does not promote abuse, parents should have the right to raise their children according to their religious beliefs.

However, the nine constitutional judges unanimously ruled that spanking should be banned.

“The vulnerability of children, their rights to dignity and to have the paramountcy of their best interests upheld, as well as the availability of less restrictive means to achieve discipline, render moderate and reasonable chastisement unconstitutional,” they ruled.

The court banned corporal punishment in prison in 1995 and in schools in 2000.

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Traditional rulers demand customary rituals for burial of Robert Mugabe

Once Mugabe’s remains were returned to Zvimba on Monday, traditional leaders demanded the burial remain in line with local rites

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Traditional rulers demand customary rituals for burial of Robert Mugabe

As public wakes for late Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe have drawn to a close, traditional chiefs are demanding the body be buried according to spiritual traditions.

Those requests have been part of a dispute over the final burial of Mugabe, who died September 6 almost two years after a coup ended his increasingly autocratic 37-year rule.

He died during a medical trip to Singapore aged 95, leaving Zimbabweans torn over the legacy of a man who some still laud for his role as a colonial-era liberation hero. 

Mugabe’s burial has already been caught up in a dispute between his family — who wanted to bury him at his rural homestead Zvimba — and the government, which pushed for the body to rest at a national monument in the capital. 

They finally agreed Mugabe would be buried at the National Heroes Acre monument, in about 30 days, once a mausoleum was built for him.

But Mugabe was a non-practising chief in his homestead, and the burial feud has highlighted the spiritual beliefs, superstitions and rituals surrounding deaths of traditional leaders in parts of Zimbabwe.

Once Mugabe’s remains were returned to Zvimba on Monday, traditional leaders demanded the burial remain in line with local rites.

One of the Zvimba chiefs, Raphael Zvikaramba, said they had “so far” accepted the government’s proposal, but refused to comment on the details.

“(Zvimba) chiefs are buried in caves and the burial is secretly conducted at night,” Mugabe’s nephew Dominic Matibiri told reporters, standing outside his late uncle’s rural house.

‘Not just a president’ –  

A prominent Zimbabwean traditional healer, Benjamin Burombo Jnr, detailed the cultural beliefs and superstition surrounding the deaths and funerals of chiefs.

Traditional rulers demand customary rituals for burial of Robert Mugabe
A Catholic priest consoles a family members as the coffin of late former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe lies in state at the Mugabe homestead in Kutama village, 80 km northwest of Harare, Zimbabwe, on September 16, 2019. (Photo by Zinyange Anthony / AFP)

“When a chief such as Mugabe dies, he is not a person that can be buried at Heroes Acre, that is forbidden. He should be buried in a cave,” Burombo told reporters.

“Mugabe was not just a president, but he was the embodiment of the spirit of Kaguvi,” he added, referring to one of Zimbabwe’s revered spirit mediums and pre-colonial nationalist leader.

When a chief died, often his body “would be dried”, his teeth “extracted” and his finger and toenails “ripped off”, Burombo said. 

He said the body would then be wrapped in skin hides before burial, and could even be swapped with a token such as a goat’s head to be buried instead.

“You can build that monument, but it doesn’t mean that is where the remains of Mugabe will be buried… it’s just for people to continue remembering him.”

Mugabe grew up Catholic and was educated by Jesuits. But according to Burombo, he still followed “traditional norms and practices” despite “going to church”.

Exaggerating the mystery –

Mugabe’s remains currently lie in his childhood village of Kutama, in Zvimba district, about 90 kilometres west of Harare.

During a mass held in his honour, Priest Emmanuel Ribeiro — a former acquaintance — said the former President “was secretive and private” about his beliefs.

Traditional rulers demand customary rituals for burial of Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe’s former first lady Grace Mugabe (2L) follows proceedings during a body viewing ceremony of late former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe hosted at Murombedzi Growth Point, about 107 km northwest of Harare, Zimbabwe, on September 16, 2019, as people have been accorded the opportunity to view Mugabe’s body a week after his death. – (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Retired sociology professor Claude Mararike told reporters the secrecy surrounding the funerals of traditional chiefs had “long vanished”.

He said that in the past, a death would only be revealed days or even weeks after burial.

“Very few people knew where the chief was buried,” Mararike said. “There were caves where a particular clan normally buried their own chiefs.”

But Mararike said that long-standing political tensions between the family and government “might have precipitated” the discord and mystery surrounding the funeral.

Mugabe’s family are still bitter over the role current President Emmerson Mnangagwa played in his ouster.

A former guerrilla who fought alongside Mugabe against colonial forces, Mnangagwa was fired as first Vice President in 2017. Mugabe had branded him a “traitor”.

Soon after, protesters took to the streets and military officers pressured Mugabe to step down in what was widely seen as a struggle between Mnangagwa’s faction and loyalists to Mugabe’s wife Grace inside the ruling ZANU-PF party. 

“There obviously was quite a lot of anger among the Zvimba people on how their son was removed from office,” said Mararike.

“The late President Mugabe might have said something before he died,” he added referring to how he wanted to be buried, “but what he really said we don’t know”.

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South Africa apologises to Nigeria after xenophobic attacks

Buhari and Ramaphosa are expected to meet at a state visit in South Africa next month

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South Africa apologises to Nigeria after xenophobic attacks

A South African envoy expressed the country’s “sincerest apologies” to Nigeria on Monday, after a wave of anti-migrant attacks swept through Johannesburg and surrounding cities in recent weeks, fuelling diplomatic tensions. 

A meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the capital Abuja was held to convey President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “sincere apologies about the incident that has recently transpired in South Africa,” the special envoy, Jeff Radebe, told reporters. 

READ: Police arrests several shop looters in South Africa

“The incident does not represent what we stand for,” he said, adding that South African police would “leave no stone unturned, that those involved must be brought to book.”

In a statement after the meeting, Nigeria’s presidency said “President Buhari responded to profuse apologies from the South African president, pledging that relationship between the two countries will be solidified.” 

Johannesburg and surrounding areas were rocked by a series of deadly attacks on foreigners in recent weeks, with many directed against Nigerian-owned businesses and properties.

South Africa apologises to Nigeria after xenophobic attacks

At least 12 people were killed in the violence that left hundreds of shops destroyed.

READ: Nigeria ramps up security to protect South African businesses

No Nigerians were killed according to South African authorities but the violence led to condemnation across Africa, particularly in Nigeria, fuelling diplomatic tensions between the continent’s two leading economies.

The violence also prompted reprisal attacks against South African firms in Nigeria and the temporary closing of South Africa’s diplomatic missions in Lagos and Abuja.

Last week, almost 200 Nigerian migrants were repatriated back to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, following the unrest. 

At least 400 more are expected to return out of some 100,000 Nigerians estimated by the government to reside in South Africa.   

Buhari and Ramaphosa are expected to meet at a state visit in South Africa next month.

READ: 189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks

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