Avela Faya was only 14 years old when she lost her mother and her uncle at the hands of her adopted brother.
Even though 11 long years have passed, the perpetrator is still roaming the streets as a free man.
Recalling the events of that fateful night that would separate her from her mother forever, Faya says the perpetrator, accompanied by a group of friends, broke into her home and went straight to her uncle’s bedroom and suffocated him to death. The perpetrators then proceeded to her mother’s bedroom, where they demanded money.
Faya’s mother, who was seven months pregnant at the time, soon learned from her perpetrators that they were there for her body parts. However, before killing her, she was gang raped by the group.
“My mother was ripped open while she was still alive and the baby was removed from her body. She was later mutilated until there were no limbs, and her throat was slit and disposed of with some of her body parts.
“The main body parts, hands and heart were sold for rituals. Till this day, I’ve never buried my mother, and my mother’s killers are roaming freely on the streets of South Africa,” says an emotional Faya.
Faya, along with other victims of gender-based violence (GBV), got an opportunity to share her story with President Cyril Ramaphosa during the Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, held recently in Centurion, Tshwane.
The stories left hundreds of delegates struggling to hold back their tears, as they listened to victims sharing the gruesome details of the pain and humiliation they endured at the hands of the perpetrators.
While some of these perpetrators were unknown to the victims, some were intimate partners, and close family members and friends.
Faya, along with other victims, feels that South Africa has become a breeding ground for perpetrators who don’t fear the justice system, mainly because the chances of them walking free are high.
Call for law enforcement
Faya calls for consistent sentencing and enforcement of the existing laws. This, she says, could be a possible solution to prevent other women and children going through what she went through.
“We need to adopt a policy to make prosecutor-led investigations of GBV cases compulsory, in order to provide guidance and assist in the gathering of evidence. This will ensure that cases are taken to court and not only that, but perpetrators are trialled and ultimately sentenced.
“The 14-year-old Avela and the now 25-year-old, and many other children of South Africa who are often left to fend for themselves as a result of GBV and femicide, need closure and desperately need justice,” Faya pleads.
She challenged traditional leaders to take a stand against muthi killings, and help in investigations and prosecution of cases.
The GBV summit was a platform of engagement to reflect critically on initiatives taken to date, and identify areas of improvement and outline a roadmap to a South Africa free from gender-based violence and femicide.
It also aligned different initiatives to create mechanisms and processes for effective coordination, planning and implementation beyond the summit.
Addressing the summit, President Cyril Ramaphosa said government needs to examine the possibility of introducing a national registry for protection orders.
He said sometimes survivors of violence have to flee their homes to other parts of the country and it becomes difficult to obtain copies of those orders without going through the whole process again.
Zero femicide rate
The President reiterated government’s commitment to bring down the figures of violence against women and children.
According to Stats SA, 138 per 100 000 women were raped last year, the highest rate in the world.
“We cannot, and we will not, rest until we have brought those figures down to zero. We are aiming for a femicide rate of zero per 100 000.
“We want to reach a point where no woman, child or man has to experience the violence, violation and trauma of rape. There is no acceptable level of GBV. We want to eradicate it,” the President said.
He also called on all South Africans to become champions of the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.
“This is a societal problem that requires multi-faceted, society wide responses.”
Government intervenes on GBV matters
In response to the #TotalShutDown marches that were held in August, government has responded to two specific demands that were raised.
These demands include conducting a review of national plans to end GBV and the development of a National Action Plan on GBV.
The President said together with civil society organisations, they have undertaken a review of government’s Programme of Action (POA) on Violence against Women and Children, and plan to launch the revised POA 2019–2023.
He said Thuthuzela Care Centres, aimed at responding to incidents of violent sexual acts against women and children, are an effective intervention by government.
“We must develop concrete proposals on how we can strengthen the operations of these centres. The centres are aimed at reducing secondary victimisation, improve conviction rates and reduce the cycle time for finalisation of cases.
“We agree with the demand that we must continuously ensure that lay counsellors at these centres undergo ongoing training to deal with the needs of victims of violence,” he said.
Roadmap to end GBV
Delegates at the summit, which included women, civil society organisations and government, presented a national declaration of priority actions, setting the roadmap to a South Africa free from GBV and femicide.
In a declaration, delegates endorsed President Ramaphosa’s call for all South Africans to respond to GBV and to establish a multi-sectoral structure to allocate the necessary resources required, and develop a national strategy.
“We appreciate the President’s pledge to the women of South Africa to listen and respond with the urgency required. We resolve that, as South Africans, to work collaboratively towards the eradication of gender-based violence and femicide.
“We commit ourselves, political and community leadership to champion the course and eradicate GBV and femicide…” reads part of the declaration.
The delegates also recognised that the Constitution sets the overarching framework for effectively responding to and preventing GBV, and that a range of laws and policies, programmes and interventions are in place across all sectors to address respective forms of GBV.