SA women suffering 'epidemic' of violence: activists

About 3,000 women in South Africa were murdered in 2018 -- or one every three hours.

JOHANNESBURG - Activists have warned of an “epidemic” of violence against women after a spate of killings and rapes sparked outrage.

A female boxing champion was gunned down on Friday by a man allegedly serving as a police officer and another man was charged on Monday with attacking a Cape Town university student in a post office and raping and murdering her.

READ: Five facts: Femicide in South Africa

According to government statistics, more than 1,500 people are murdered every month in South Africa.

But the brazen attacks have shocked even those accustomed to daily incidents of violence.

"These murders are proof that the battleground is no longer nighttime and dodgy spaces ... even public spaces like the post office are no longer safe," said Given Sigauqwe from rights groups Sonke Gender Justice calling the violence an "epidemic".

"We need the criminal justice system to be more accountable and the perpetrators of these violent crimes to face the full might of the law," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

WATCH: Why the deafening silence, Mr President?

President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed "deep pain and support" for the families of recent victims of gender violence, underscoring the growing political significance of the issue.

Thousands of South Africans on social media used the hashtag #AmINextProtest to call for criminal justice reform.

More than 400,000 signed a petition demanding the death penalty -- abolished in 1995 -- be reinstated for crimes against women.

Some pointed to the sad irony of the killing of boxer Leighandre "Baby Lee" Jegels which happened at the end of August, celebrated as Women's Month.

About 3,000 women in South Africa were murdered in 2018 -- or one every three hours -- which is more than five times higher than the global average, according to the World Health Organization.

READ: SA calls for state of emergency on femicide

Authorities have condemned the killings and government said on its Twitter account on Tuesday that women "should not allow themselves to become victims".

The post was deleted after being criticised for blaming victims.

"Enough of this nonsense making men's crimes a woman's responsibility," someone tweeted.

A vigil for the murdered student, 19-year-old Uyinene Mrwetyana, was held at the University of Cape Town on Monday.