Violence against South Africa’s women, children: verifying claims at a men’s summit

At a recent men’s summit, South Africa’s deputy president quoted several statistics on the violence suffered by women and children. In a fact-check in progress, we look at the first of five claims.

Men from organisations across South Africa came together for a summit in August 2018 to develop a “men’s charter” and a “men’s sector strategic plan for positive social change”.

Opening the Takuwani Riime men’s summit in KwaZulu-Natal, deputy president David Mabuza called on men to take stock of the role they play in South African society. Takuwani Riime is a Tshivenda expression meaning “Let us stand up together”.

“We have to talk as men about the pain we’ve inflicted on women and children,” Mabuza said.

Here we weigh up five claims Mabuza made about violence against South Africa’s women and children. (Note: We tried to get clarity on Mabuza’s sources from his spokesperson Thami Ngwenya, but at the time of publication our request was unanswered. We will update this report when he responds.)


Our country’s femicide rate has been increasing over the last five years.



The South African Police Service records the number of women murdered in the country. When this data is compared with population estimates, a murder rate can be calculated.

The most recent data available shows that in the 2017/18 financial year, 15.2 out of every 100,000 women were victims of murder.

This is the highest the rate has been in the past five years and represents a 16% increase over the period.

South Africa’s femicide rate
Woman 18+ murdered Femicide rate/100,000
2013/14 2,354 13.1
2014/15 2,234 12.2
2015/16 2,416 13.0
2016/17 2,639 14.0
2017/18 2,930 15.2

Source: South African Police Service and Statistics South Africa


One in five women experience physical violence from an intimate partner.



The most recent research on violence against women in South Africa is the country’s 2016 Demographic and Health Survey.

It’s a nationally representative household survey, used in a number of countries around the world. It provides data on a wide range of topics – population, health and nutrition.

South Africa’s 2016 survey included questions on whether women aged 18 and older had ever experienced physical violence by any partner.

The survey found that “one in five partnered women has ever experienced physical violence by a partner”. But this statistic cannot be applied to the whole female population, as Mabuza did in his speech.

The question relates to “women that were currently and/or previously in a relationship with a man in their lifetime”, Statistics South Africa told Africa Check.

They include “women who are married, divorced, separated, widowed, living or lived with a man as if married, had or have boyfriends or [a] fiancé”.

When considering South Africa’s total adult female population, Statistics South Africa said 7.7% of women 18 years and older experienced violence by a current or previous partner in the 12 months before the survey.

This means that one in 13 women in South Africa – not one in five – have experienced physical violence from an intimate partner. – Kate Wilkinson


41% of the [124,000 cases of rape in the last three years] were against children.



South Africa’s police recorded 124,526 cases of rape in the three years from 2014/15 to 2016/17.

In 50,988 of these cases, the victim was recorded as aged 18 or younger. This is 41% of all the rapes recorded in South Africa over the three years.

More recent crime statistics, for 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018, were released after Mabuza’s speech. These reveal an even higher share: 18,336 of the 40,035 rapes recorded, or 45.8%, were of children. – Gopolang Makou

Recorded child rape cases in South Africa
Year Child rapes reported Total rapes reported Child rape as % of total rape
2014/15 15,520 43,195 35.9%
2015/16 16,389 41,503 39.5%
2016/17 19,079* 39,828 47.9%
2017/18 18,336 40,035 45.8%

Source: Parliamentary reply, parliamentary presentation and police crime statistics

* In a 2017 parliamentary reply, the minister of police put the number of child rape cases in 2016/17 at 19,017. This was updated to 19,079 in August 2018. We have asked the police to verify whether this is the correct figure.

Africa Check is busy fact-checking four more claims by Mabuza. Check back as we update this report with our findings:

  • In the last year alone we’ve lost more than 2,000 women’s lives in the hands of men.
  • Only 1 in 3 murders are detected by the police.


Further reading:


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