Zuma launches S. Africa anti-rape campaign

President Jacob Zuma launched an anti-rape campaign in South Africa's schools on Thursday, saying it was a necessary step to tackle the "sickness" of rampant sexual assaults.

"Over 64,000 cases of rape were reported to police last year," Zuma told a packed hall of pupils at a Cape Town high school.

"We have come together to say these horrendous attacks must stop."

The Stop Rape campaign will be launched in schools countrywide on Friday.

More than 10 million pupils are set to make a pledge against sexual violence.

The campaign was sparked by the horrific rape and murder earlier this month of 17-year-old Anene Booysen, whose mutilation shocked the country.

The teenager died hours after she was found with her intestines hanging outside of her body on a housing construction site.

"The start of this campaign is a necessary step that our country or nation has to undertake to rid this scourge, to cure our nation of the sickness," said Zuma.

South Africa plans to re-open dedicated courts for sexual offences and last year reintroduced specialised police units.

"No woman or child should be beaten, raped, stabbed, shot or attacked in any manner anywhere in our country, whether by known or unknown attackers," said Zuma.

He also urged the youngsters to report assaults and not to abuse drugs, which he said were linked to the high rate of sexual crimes.

"I felt that it was really important," said school pupil Mekayla Piekaan, 17, who said there was a lot of violence in her community.

"This will make children realise that they can speak out about their problems and that there are people that care," she added.

South Africa faces shocking levels of rape with the rapes of a two-year-old and a 91-year-old woman just two cases recently reported in local media.

Young boys are also among the abusers with nine youths, including five minors, appearing in court last week for a gang-rape.

Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the country had been forced to recognise that "rape and gender-based violence are reaching pandemic proportions".

The campaign is in partnership with a private initiative Lead SA.