S.African leader vows to combat violence against women

By Hassan Isilow

JOHANNESBURG (AA) – South Africa's president Thursday pledged more action to combat violence against women, in a country said to have one of the worst rape problems in the world.

Addressing an event marking the nation’s Women's Day in the Eastern Cape Province, Cyril Ramaphosa said his government will hold a national gender summit to deal with violence against women.

Almost a quarter of a million women are raped in South Africa annually, Bheki Cele, the nation's police minister, told parliament in June.

Activists say the numbers could even be more, but many victims shrink from reporting the crime to police because of the way police officers treat them.

Ramaphosa said his government will prioritize women’s empowerment in its budget.

"The best way to empower young women and promote gender equality is through education," he said.

South Africa’s Women's Day celebrations coincide with the commemoration of the 1956 women's march to the seat of government in the capital Pretoria.

In that march, thousands of women marched against the apartheid law that required black South Africans to carry passes allowing them to move from one town to another.

Separately, Julius Malema, leader of the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Party, told a Women's Day gathering in KwaZulu Natal province: "There is a war declared against women in South Africa, if they don't rape you, they will kill you."

Rising incidents of the abuse of women, including murders by their own partners, are reported daily across the country.

Last week, thousands of women marched across the country to call for an end to the abuse of women.