On Wednesday, thousands of women and gender-nonconforming people took to the streets around Southern Africa. They were marching against the scourge of gender-based violence which has taken the lives of many women and gender nonconforming people. The action took place under the platform of a total shutdown with women and gender nonconforming people being asked to stay away from work. The Daily Vox team were at the Pretoria march.
Women and gender nonconforming people marched through the streets of Pretoria to the Union Buildings. As they marched, the crowds sang struggle songs and chanted No Means No. There was an observation of a minutes silence at 13:00 for all the victims and survivors of gender-based violence.
Mandisa Khanyile, a member of the National steering committee for The Total Shutdown said to The Daily Vox in an interview that if government don’t respond to their demands by the appointed time, there will be no elections next year.
“We’re not having elections next year,” said Khanyile.
At the Union Buildings, the steering committee addressed the crowd. The national spokesperson Loyiso Saliso said the people gathered were here to make demand and not to teach men how to be better people. She said the law, the criminal justice and the government have all failed women and gender nonconforming people in South Africa.
Various womxn read out statements from womxn survivors and victims of gender-based violence.
— Marvin Charles (@MarvinCharles17) August 1, 2018
A framework of demands was due to be handed over to President at the Union Buildings, the Speaker of Parliament in Cape Town and the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.
However, in Pretoria women insisted they would only be handing over the memorandum to President Cyril Ramaphosa and no one else. Higher Education Minister, Naledi Pandor came out to receive the memorandum but the crowd refused to hand it to her.
Late on Wednesday, Ramaphosa came out to meet and accept the memoradnum from several of the womxn who had remained behind at the Union Buildings. Ramaphosa said the government would be going through the memorandum carefully and consider all the demands that have been made. The womxn of The Total Shutdown raised the issue that they had been mistreated by police officers during the march. Ramaphosa promised those officers would be dealt with.
Various organisations pledged their support and marched together under the umbrella of The Total Shutdown, even though the movement was non-partisan. The areas of mobilisation they called for was policy reform surrounding gender-based violence, a national strategic plan and addressing GBV in schools curriculum. Other issues included addressing corruption in the criminal justice system, national summit to discuss GBV and fully-funded national coordinating council on GBV.
Since the conception of The Total Shutdown, the organisers had been travelling around the country to mobilise intersectional women and gender-nonconforming individuals to form part of the mass action.
In the run-up to the event, the organisers of The Total Shutdown released a number of ways that people including men-who were not allowed to march on the day-could get involved. This included marching with the different protests that were taking place around the country and in neighbouring countries. People were asked not to spend any money on the day.
As for men, the Total Shutdown said they should refrain from all economic activities and to donate towards the Total Shutdown project. Additionally there was calls for men to fill in for women and gender-nonconforming people at work and to relieve mothers, wives and partners of their home duties. Lastly and most importantly there was a call for men to support #TheTotalShutdown by stopping the abusing and intimidating of women, gender-nonconforming and children.
Author’s note: Article has been updated with Ramaphosa’s comments.
Featured image by Fatima Moosa.