"That was not me. No, I was not there, I was preparing for today" said Minister of Women in the Presidency, Susan Shabangu when a journalist read her quote from an interview with eNCA, remarking on Karabo Mokoena, a woman who was allegedly killed by her partner, being "weak".
She said this on Wednesday at a press briefing in Cape Town, on gender-based violence.
Shabangu was criticised for comments she made in an interview on eNCA's current affairs programme, Checkpoint on Tuesday: "She was weak and hence she became a victim of abuse. As she tried to deal with her situation in sharing it with other abused women, she ended up being a victim of abuse".
Responding to this at the press briefing, she said she used the wrong word, and what she meant was that "Karabo was vulnerable. Karabo was in a relationship that she thought would work for her, but it led to the unfortunate death of her".
The briefing continued, and later, towards the conclusion of the meeting, a journalist asked to clarify this point, to which she responded: "are you judging me?".
Another journalist then quoted her quote back to her, and then she denied even being at this interview.
Addressing the issue of gender-based violence in its entirety, she said that it is not the sole responsibility of government, nor of her department, to address the "scourge of violence against women"
"It's something government can't do alone", she said, and called on South African society at large to undergo a shift in attitudes. She remarked on how South Africa is still deeply entrenched in its patriarchal value systems which have been handed down through history, and the responsibility of changing this sits with parents and educators who need to socialise young boys and girls to understand each other as equals.
She went on to say that she is "very excited" about Police Minister Fikile Mbalula's decision to prioritise to social crimes/ contact crimes involving women by allocating more resources to these crimes." A woman going to a police station must be treated with decency. This situation of police turning cases away saying go to sort your problems out must come to an end", the minister said.
This was in reference to the Mokoena case in which it emerged that when she laid charges against her accused murderer for domestic violence the police told both her and her boyfriend to "work it out" because they could not be investigating "counterclaims", in reference to the fact that he had prior laid charges against her. This has been reported as a widespread problem leading to the lack of public trust in the policing and justice systems on matters of sexual violence and domestic abuse.
Because of low conviction rates, specialised family violence, child protection and sexual offences units in South Africa were closed in 2006, affecting reporting rates and confidence in the police.The units were re-established in 2011.
On legislative issues, Shabangu said, "I think the president has expressed the issue very well - we need to go back to the drawing board" and restructure the laws.
Shabangu also addressed a question from the media about leaders making sexual advances on junior women. Shabangu said that this behaviour is "unacceptable"; "we cannot condone leaders who undermine women."
Earlier this week, Minister in the presidency Jeff Radebe's apologised for his "sexting scandal", in which he had made elicit sexual advances on a junior who worked below him.