Zuma addresses rape in State of Nation speech

South African president calls for "unity in action" to end rape in his annual state of the nation address in Cape Town.

    Zuma addresses rape in State of Nation speech
    The President zoomed in on the rising number of violent protests and labour unrest in the country [Reuters]

    South African President Jacob Zuma has used his annual state of the nation address to call for "unity in action" to end the scourge of rape, which plagues the country.

    "The brutality and cruelty meted out to defenceless women is unacceptable and has no place in our country," Zuma told parliament on Thursday, just days after the rape and disembowelment of a 17-year-old girl shocked the nation.

    The teenager was found at a construction site after her attackers reportedly slit open her stomach, took out her intestines and broke her legs.

    Booysen was buried at the weekend after dying in hospital. Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral.

    A sober Zuma said he had instructed law enforcement agencies to treat these cases with the "utmost urgency and importance."

    "Such acts will not be tolerated."

    Around 65,000 sexual offences were committed in South Africa last year, according to official figures.

    But police estimate only one in 36 rape cases is reported. Activists complain that only a fraction of reported cases result in sentencing.

    Zuma said that conviction rates were improving, with family violence, child protection and sexual offences units securing 363 life sentences in the last financial year and a conviction rate of over 70 percent.

    Infrastructure development

    Zuma took the opportunity to report on progress made since his State of the Nation Address in 2012 and discussed, without providing specific details, a programme of action for 2013.

    "I will look at the five priorities – education, health, the fight against crime, creating decent work as well as rural development and land reform," Zuma said

    "Last year, I addressed the nation on government’s infrastructure plans.

    "By the end of March this year, starting from 2009, government will have spent about 860 billion rand on infrastructure. Various projects are being implemented around the country. I will discuss just a few," he said.

    The President also zoomed in on the rising number of violent protests and labour unrest in the country.

    South Africa was rocked by thousands of service delivery protests and wildcat strikes that disabled the mining industry in 2012.

    Inequalities in mining industry and police brutality made international headlines in September when 34 striking miners were gunned down by police outside the small mining town of Marikana in South Africa.

    Though Zuma said that authorities would attempt to deal with community grievances before they escalated, the South African president did intimate a crackdown on public displays of dissent was imminent.

    "It is unacceptable when people’s rights are violated by perpetrators of violent actions, such as actions that lead to injury and death of persons, damage to property and the destruction of valuable public infrastructure."


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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