'We're a sick society,' says Patricia de Lille as she unveils six shelters for victims of gender-based violence

Minister of public works Patricia de Lille slammed South Africans for the violence against women and children in the country.
Minister of public works Patricia de Lille slammed South Africans for the violence against women and children in the country. 
Image: Esa Alexander

Minister of public works Patricia de Lille on Wednesday slammed South Africans for the ongoing scourge of violence against women and children, describing the recent killings of children as sickening. 

She was speaking alongside the minister of social development, Lindiwe Sisulu, during a joint media briefing.

She said children were killed weekly for reasons unknown.

“We are living in a very sick society because women and children are supposed to be protected and loved in our communities and not abused,” she said.

De Lille announced that her department had offered six properties to be used as shelters for victims of crime. These would mainly cater for women and children who at times remained in violent, toxic relationships because they had nowhere to run for help.

“The government cannot do it alone. We need the help of the private sector, civil society, community-based organisations - and the community itself - to deal with this scourge.  

“Hopefully, by providing all of these safe spaces, as government we can go beyond just talking about a rapid response to gender-based violence,” she said. 

Four of the properties were in the Western Cape, while two were based in Johannesburg.

De Lille said her department would oversee maintenance while Sisulu’s would look at the other elements. 

She further pledged to use more buildings for campaigns against gender-based violence.

“All our state owned buildings, we are going to use to advertise, to put billboards so that the message against gender-based violence must be in the faces of those monsters every day,” she said.  

Sisulu echoed similar sentiments, saying gender-based violence in SA was a shame which needed to be tackled by all. 

“This burden, this shame, must be a national shame that calls us into action,” she said. 

She urged society to put aside political affiliations in tackling this crime. 

Sisulu said at least R50m had been set aside for the shelters. The funds were taken from the criminal assets recovery account. 

“The cabinet has also approved the publication of the victims' support services bill for public comment. This bill will go a long way to address some of the problematic and policy shortcomings identified by the commission for gender equality," she said.  

Advocate Bernadine Bachar of the Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement (WCWSM) and director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Children in South Africa welcomed the announcement. 

She said more than 8,000 women and children were helped by the Baartman Centre last year. She looked forward to doing more work with De Lille's and Sisulu's departments.  

De Lille also challenged local government to give up government-owned properties and land to be used as spaces to protect women against gender-based violence. 

“As women, we feel the pain of our sisters, we feel the pain of our mothers and I think those women that are empowered already ... we must make sure that we use the power that we have, whether its political or economic power to reach out to all our sisters out there,” she added.  

The announcement brings the number of shelters to 10, according to De Lille.