Violence against children & women, forced marriages (ukuthwala), femocide, child murders, implementation of Domestic Violence Act, Child Justice & Sexual Offences Acts: Department of Police & Childline briefings

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

25 August 2009
Chairperson: Ms B Thompson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to consider briefings by Childline and the South African Police Service (SAPS) on the broad topic of violence against children and women. 

Childline was a national organisation with its head office in Durban. It offered, amongst other services, a toll-free crisis telephone counselling service, which received calls on issues and problems relating to physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and other challenges impacting on children's lives. It also undertook child abuse prevention and education programmes in schools and communities, training of volunteers, networking and coordination of services with partner civil society organisations and government bodies to children, advocacy on children's rights, monitoring of legislation and policy on children’s issues, and offered treatment services to abused children and their families. It also undertook preparation of child victims for giving evidence, safe emergency care for children needing to be removed from their homes, and counselling and preventative initiatives for children who were offenders, particularly of sexual crimes.

There were numerous challenges. The first related to ongoing and serious poverty, which made children most vulnerable yet most unlikely to access services, and the recession and declining employment worsened the situation. Although education could assist in lifting children, the provinces differed widely in the standard and availability of education. There had been a 100% increase in reported physical and emotional abuse, but this could be due to more children becoming aware that they should report such issues. Adults also consulted Childline to get help with behavioural issues that they could not manage. Many children were exploited through domestic labour, but also prostitution, with some becoming prostitutes simply to survive.

These challenges were exacerbated by the failure to implement law and policy, the need for further law reform to ensure that the legislation was indeed catering properly for children, the demise or decentralisation of the Community Policing Units, the fact that some police stations would not accept reports of abuse, thinking that they could meet their targets of reducing the incidence of crime in their areas, the fact that police often did not refer children to the correct services, and a general deterioration of service delivery across other departments. Childline was concerned that the efforts leading up to the 2010 World Cup were focusing too much on trafficking and not enough on the causes, and criticised the school closures over this time. The problems highlighted with attempting to have two registers for offenders, one under the Sexual Offences Act and one under the Children’s Act, were highlighted and the delays were mentioned. There was inadequate budgeting and unequal provincial budgeting for implementation of the Children's Act, lack of equality in subsidies to non-profit organisations, lack of trained personnel and general lack of proper political attention to child issues, which would be better served by putting substantial money into addressing the real issues rather than holding campaigns where large amounts were spent on conferences, T-shirts, caps and other unimportant peripheral items.

The Department of Police (South African Police Service) noted what was being done to train officers to meet the requirements of the Domestic Violence Act, emphasising the importance of gender sensitivity training, and emphasising also that both abuse and sexual offences were concerned with power and control. Although it was trying to enforce the legislation, the Independent Complaints Directorate would also take up cases where complaints were lodged. The Sexual Offences Act posed a daunting challenge as it had brought about a number of definition changes and introduced several new offences, in which the police must be trained. SAPS was also involved in ukuthwala and circumcision practices, and was working with traditional leaders to educate them that some of the practices, although tradition, actually contravened aspects of the law, and was also working with the Department of Health in relation to the initiation schools. 

Challenges were identified as the need for good and ongoing training to ensure compliance and gender sensitivity, the need also to sensitise the community of the protection afforded by the legislation and the roles and responsibilities of different role players, the fact that there was still lack of coordination between different government departments, non government organizations and community initiatives, the need to have 24-hour support, and the difficulty in compiling statistics on the new Sexual Offences legislation.

Members were concerned and saddened by the Reports and asked a number of questions, mostly for clarity on aspects of the reports, and noted the necessity of applying their minds to the topics raised and taking them further.

The Committee considered and adopted its report on the Strategic Planning Workshop.

Meeting report

The Chairperson supported the request of Members that documentation should kindly be made available to Members of the Committee in advance of the meeting.

Childline SA briefing
Ms Joan van Niekerk, Manager for Training and Advocacy, Childline SA, noted that Childline was a national organization, having its national office in Durban. Through its nine provincial offices, it provided a number of services. It had a toll-free crisis telephone counselling service, which received calls on issues and problems relating to physical, emotional and sexual abuse, poverty, neglect and child pornography, abuse at school by educators, abandonment, HIV/AIDS, relationship problems, sexual problems, teenage pregnancy, depression and attempted suicide, learning and educational problems, bullying, harassment, homelessness, begging, divorce, custody and access, sibling issues, loneliness and other challenges impacting on children's lives. The call centres were provincialised so that children could be spoken to in their own languages. About 92% of children calling in were black Africans. Childline also offered child abuse prevention and education programmes in schools and communities, trained volunteers to assist Childline in providing services, networked and coordinated services with other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government bodies offering child services., and advocacy on children’s rights, involving monitoring legislation and policy and their implementation. It offered treatment to abused children and their families, safe emergency care for children needing to be removed. It prepared abused children to testify in court, and also offered rehabilitation for offending children and adults committing offences against children. It also rolled out a programme relating to Child Justice issues with children who were committing sexual offences against other children.

The beneficiaries of the programmes were children and families who could not afford access to other services in the field of child protection.

Childline had opened a chat room counselling facility for children using Mxit, and had been inundated with queues of up to twenty-one children at a time waiting in a chat room to speak to counsellors. The most prevalent issues were sexual abuse, sexual behaviour and self-mutilating behaviour amongst teens. This attracted children from all population groups. The national office also did e-mail counselling through its website.

Childline had a challenge in reaching children without services. Presently, 67.7% of children in South Africa were classed as poverty-stricken, with the highest percentage in Limpopo. Statistics from 2002 and 2007 also showed how declining employment in the country was impacting on children's lives. Infant mortality was highest in KwaZulu Natal, followed by the Eastern Cape, mostly related to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. South Africa was one of the few countries left in the world with an increasing infant and child mortality rate.

Although education was a way of uplifting children out of poverty, there were huge provincial disparities in school performances and school facilities, with Limpopo again being especially low in school performance and facilities. Every child needed equal opportunity, yet it was not a reality. 

The statistics from 2008 of the National Childline crisis counselling line showed 100% increase in reported physical abuse and emotional abuse, and an increase in neglect. These increases could be attributed to more children knowing they could report to the help line. Most of the calls about behavioural problems came from adults who lacked the skills to manage their parenting function, and Childline would become involved in several parenting projects because it believed the home was the first line of child protection.

Domestic labour was the highest area of commercial exploitation of children. Other children were involved in prostitution purely as a survival activity, and many of them were supporting families as well. Many girls in Limpopo were involved in sex for food, shelter, or clothes, but did not feel they were being sexually exploited. Counsellors were trained to deal with sexuality issues, especially in schools, to promote responsible sexual behaviour. It was impossible to be judgmental, for the child support grant ceased at age 15 and these girls had no other means of survival. Maintenance was also a huge issue, as although Childline would refer women to the right structures, the maintenance courts were simply not working.

Neglect was also a very big issue and so was child malnutrition, mostly through lack of income. Many children were also phoning in because of their parents’ alcohol abuse.

Ms van Niekerk outlined the main challenges faced by Childline. Although South Africa had good legislation, it was simply not being implemented. Only 30 out of 300 sections of the Children's Act, passed in 2005, had been implemented. The Child Protection Protocol was finalised in 1999, but was not being implemented, and there was uneven treatment across provinces. The failure to implement the Children’s Act, which attempted to take a holistic view and prevent problems, did not augur well for improving the condition of children.

Another challenge was that many decisions made during the law reform process were not in fact child-friendly. Three main issues needed priority attention. Firstly, the Children’s Act left decisions on guardianship and the protection of children's property with the Master of the High Court. Given the high numbers of orphans, particularly in rural areas, children on the ground were left unprotected. It took several months to appoint a curator bonis to the property, by which time the community and family would have taken and redistributed the property. Children could not access this court from rural areas. She suggested that these decisions should be made by the Children’s Court, which was far more accessible.

Secondly, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act had been passed after public hearings that were held, in 2003, with only one day’s notice, in the Western Cape, thus limiting the number of submissions. Childline had pleaded that every child should have access to the intermediary system, protecting the child from having to testify in an open courtroom. However, the Department of Justice opposed rolling out the intermediary system for every child. Even the Constitutional Court judgment on the issue did not give equal protection for every child victim, and there was something seriously wrong with a system where giving of evidence might traumatise a child more in addition to the abuse inflicted.

There were duplicated registers of those deemed unfit to work with children. The register provided for in the Children's Act was very good, and was more inclusive than the register prescribed by the Sexual Offences Act. However, having two registers was expensive, and only 5% of all offenders would appear on the Sexual Offenders Register. Childline, already stretched for resources, would thus have to screen every member and volunteer against both registers, and so would the Department of Education, Police and other institutions. She appealed for thought to be given to how this could be resolved.

A further challenge was that the decentralisation of the Child Protection Units was done without consultation with the other sectors in the Child Protection system. This had a negative effect on the management of child abuse by South African Police Services (SAPS) and contributed to the failure of many reports and investigations. If the specialised units were reintroduced, then Childline appealed for a rework and re-establishment of the child protection protocols setting out the roles and responsibilities of all sectors involved in the management of child abuse. Training, mentoring and debriefing were also vital.

Childline had, over the past three years, received numerous reports of those attempting to report abuse being turned away from police stations, often allegedly to try to meet the targets of reducing rape statistics. Police had apparently been telling people that their children would be traumatized by the process, that the children were “too young”, which was not their role, and thus were denying both access to justice but also to health care and counselling.

Further challenges lay in the fact that the health service was overwhelmed by the HIV and AIDS pandemic, and that Social Development Social Workers were preoccupied with care of orphans, so that few children requiring protection after abuse were receiving acceptable levels of service, compounded further by the lack of appropriate work ethic and supervision in some instances.

Childline said no consultation had been done before Cabinet decided to close all schools during the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Few parents and caregivers would be able to take leave for the extended school holiday, and many children dependent on school feeding programmes would be denied access. This exacerbated the conditions that made children vulnerable to all forms of abuse and exploitation. Although there appeared to be a focus on preventing trafficking of women and children, there was no regard had to the conditions that created vulnerability to it.

Children’s services were seriously under funded. Civil society provided over 60% of child protection services to children in South Africa, yet neither was being properly funded. In addition, budgeting for the implementation of the Children’s Act was unequal and inadequate in all provinces. The Department of Social Development had already not spent 49% of its HIV/AIDS budget in the last financial year. There was unequal spending on children’s services across the provinces. Too much money was put into campaigns and promotions, which could better have been spent on feeding children. For instance, the Sixteen Days of Activism came at a time when schools, a valuable safety net for children, were closing and police were moving to holiday activities, so that it was difficult to find anyone to actually provide services to a child encouraged by this to speak out. More energy should rather be directed to Child Protection Week in May or June.

Further challenges which were described included the recession, which increased the vulnerability of children yet limited the resources, the lack of trained personnel, and the lack of focused political attention to issues impacting on children, other than the social grants. She quoted Graca Machel, who had said that political leaders often made promises about the protection of children, but the most important thing was for them to fulfil those promises. South Africa should holding its political leaders accountable on child issues.

The Chairperson noted that Ms van Niekerk had made some telling and hard-hitting points, and the Committee must seriously ask itself why the Children’s Act had not been implemented.

Ms van Niekerk noted that Childline was overwhelmed in trying to manage with its own resources. She noted that other organizations had asked Childline to try to track cases, which might given an idea of where the biggest trouble spots were. She would try to keep the Committee advised of the areas that needed specific attention.

Mr D Kekana (ANC) said that Childline had highlighted that “together we can do more”. Development must concern everyone, not just Government, and feedback was very important. He noted that many of those in need were in KwaZulu Natal, but altogether a high percentage of children were in need of care. He asked where Government most needed to intervene. The fact that only 30 sections of the Children's Act were implemented was problematic, but he asked where the problems lay and what interventions were needed.

Ms van Niekerk agreed with Mr Kekana that all had to work together. Civil Society already tried to work hand in hand with government.

She said that there were still so many children who were disadvantaged because many of the historical inequalities of the past had not been addressed, so that children were still being left out of services, and those children found it difficult to make their voices heard. She suggested that the Committee should perhaps try to visit some of the more remote areas, as children there did not have the means to access services. She was not sure what caused the inequalities in subsidies made at provincial level, but this inequality was yet another cause for concern.

Ms D Robinson (DA) thanked Childline for the helpful and thought provoking presentation, and said that the Committee should have more interaction to obtain more information. She was appreciative of the practical suggestions. She was very concerned about children being turned away from police stations, and was aware that this had been happening in her constituency. Often there were not sufficient trauma counselling centres at the police stations, or they were not functioning, or did not have adequately trained counselors. She asked that more knowledge be disseminated more widely.

Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) said it was heartbreaking to hear this report, as children were the future of the country. She asked what was the main cause that social workers and others were not able to assist, and what the delays were in implementation of the Children’s Act. She also asked why the national office of Childline was based in Durban.

Ms van Niekerk said that the problems with the implementation of the Children's Act were difficult to specify. The Department of Social Development seemed itself to be unclear about the delays. The lack of regulations held up implementation, as well as other policy issues, but it might be useful for the Committee to look at the budget allocations for implementation. The Children's Institute of the University of Cape Town and Institute for Democracy in South Africa had done a budget analysis, but there was a need to proactively advocate for an improved budget for implementation in some of the provinces. Two of the major challenges would be training on the Act across the entire system of children's services, and the monitoring.

Ms van Niekerk explained that the national office was located in Durban, because KwaZulu Natal (KZN) was the province with the most children, the most problems and challenges with relation to children and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, but the function was to build competency in all their provincial offices. Rent was also cheaper in Durban.

Ms H Malgas (ANC) noted and said that the Committee must work on the challenges identified, adding that the ten priorities identified in the State of the Nation Address also impacted upon children. She asked what the relationship of Childline was to other departments.

Ms van Niekerk said that the relationship between Childline and government departments at a national level was very good. They joined with the National Child Protection Committee, had good relationship with the new Director of the Office on the Rights of the Child and also met with the National Child Care Protection Forum. However, there was a problem in that the Department in charge of these committees did not call regular meetings. However, Ms van Niekerk said that she must be very frank in expressing her concern at seeing members of Government departments driving to luxury conference venues in the East Rand, all in individual cars, at a total cost of about R300 each for each round trip, and wondered why they could not work out the logistics that more meetings could be held to achieve more if they ran them more economically.

Ms Malgas asked how Childline dealt with potential suicide and stress cases as children entered their matriculation examination period.

Ms van Niekerk agreed that Childline did get very concerned during exam periods, especially as many children would become suicidal in the build up to and after the results were released. Over Christmas, the call line ran for twenty four hours a day, and received several calls from children who felt they could not tell their parents that they had failed. Childline tried to do prevention work, and also worked with the media to try to offer the most support over that period.

Ms Malgas asked that the Department of Police, during its presentation, must address the problem cited by Childline that many police stations were turning away complainants. She was aware of a person who, when trying to report a rape that occurred on a Saturday, was told to come back on Tuesday.

Ms Malgas asked for more information on the Child Protection Unit (CPU), since the Minister of Police had stated that would be started up again. She agreed that debriefing was important, and noted that the Police apparently did not undertake this.

Ms van Niekerk said that Childline welcomed the Minister's decision. The decentralisation of the CPU resulted in a massive dilution and loss of skills, and Childline hoped this would be rectified as quickly as possible. Western Cape was one of the provinces that had managed to retain the CPU, and in which it continued to function.

Ms D Ramodibe (ANC) asked what programmes were put in place for 2009/2010 for neglected children, and asked also how Childline would access children in the deep rural areas.

Ms van Niekerk noted that the programme differed from province to province, depending on the provincial office's immediate problems. Some provincial Childline offices were better equipped than others, largely depending on their ability to source funding within that province. The Department of Social Development did not fund the crisis line in KZN, but it was funded in Gauteng, Limpopo and North West. KZN had a very busy crisis line but struggled for funding. A child line was extremely costly to run, so much so that the National Government had in fact closed their own child line, which an NGO had then taken over.

Ms van Niekerk conceded that children in deep rural areas remained a big challenge. Childline staff already had to travel long distances but they did make a real effort to go out to rural schools, especially the schools where there were no telephones. The school programmes often gave children the opportunity to disclose problems in their lives, and here Childline would try to work in conjunction with those programmes. Provinces that posed the most challenges were Eastern Cape, Limpopo and the Northern Cape. Childline had limited resources and did not have a vehicle in the Northern Cape, so the Provincial Director there had to use her own personal vehicle or go out in minibus taxis. Resources were a major challenge. She confirmed that the National Office received no subsidy from government. Northern Cape was the last provincial office to be developed as a result of funding. Ideally, there should be a management committee of volunteers in each province to work with Childline to establish a provincial call centre. A further challenge specific to the Northern Cape was the lack of qualified people, as Northern Cape lacked a tertiary education institution.

A Member asked what Childline's relationship with disabled children was.

Ms van Niekerk said that South Africa had higher levels of abuse against able-bodied children, which was an international phenomenon supported by a lot of research. However, there were many challenges in communicating with children with certain disabilities. Those with intellectual disabilities often could not dial a telephone number, and had to do so through their caretakers. Childline was trying to promote the chat room and Internet counselling with children who were hearing-disabled. Childline had found that police and prosecutors found it difficult to take statements from children with disabilities and they often slipped through the criminal justice system and were not protected because of lack of communication.

Ms P Duncan (DA) asked how Childline monitored the calls to ensure positive outcomes.

Ms van Niekerk replied that Childline had a call tracking system donated by Telkom Foundation, which captured an enormous amount of detail relating to the call. It would help to define which were the most problematic geographical areas, and which were the most vulnerable age groups as well. It was a very valuable tool.

Ms Duncan noted that Childline, like this Committee, was dedicated to the cause of children, and said that the Committee’s first mandate must be to ensure that the executive was accountable. She noted that the former Minister of Social Development, Dr Skweyiya, had, during 2008, made R500 million available, which was divided between the nine provinces. This, to her mind, was part of the political campaign leading up to the 2009 elections. In her constituency, people had complained that only those with allegiance to certain political parties were getting any payments for social upliftment of distress. She noted that the KZN Childline was dedicated to look at those issues.

The Chairperson said that social workers were severely underpaid and believed that Government and civil society together should be able to find a solution to the problem. She noted that education and training would contribute.

Ms van Niekerk agreed with the Chairperson that social workers were badly underpaid, and added that they also had massive caseloads, sometimes up to 300 cases at a time, and were either severely demoralised, or even changed their occupation. South Africa was losing a lot of social workers to industry and other countries because of the work situation.

The Chairperson asked how it was possible for the Department of Social Development to be underspending when the need was so great. She also said that there was no need for problems to arise through lack of documentation, because the Department of Home Affairs had offices in all provinces, and the Members of Parliament needed perhaps to develop a better relationship with them.

Ms Robinson also commented on the under spending in KZN. The Committee would be more involved in the budget process and with oversight in the future. She noted that there was also under spending on library facilities in the Eastern Cape, and even the Western Cape was not much better. This was due to incompetence in administration, so it was important to ensure people were only put in positions if they had the right skills. It was a disgrace that money could not be used when it was made available.

Ms van Niekerk said that Childline often felt despondent at the enormity of the problem, and was grateful for the interest shown by the Committee.

Department of Police : South African Police Service – (SAPS) briefing
Commissioner Tertius Geldenhuys, Head: Legislation, South African Police Service briefed the Committee on the topic of violence against women and children. He noted that the four applicable pieces of legislation were the Domestic Violence Act (DVA), the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act (Sexual Offences Act), the Child Care Act and Children's Act; and the Child Justice Act.

Dealing firstly with the Domestic Violence Act, he noted that it was the duty of South African Police Service (SAPS) personnel, in terms of this Act, to render assistance to the victim to find suitable shelter, obtain medical treatment, and make a decision on the remedies at his or her disposal and to accompany the victim to collect personal property. Police had powers to arrest, to seize weapons, to serve protection orders and to enforce such protection orders.

SAPS undertook extensive and ongoing training on domestic violence and this training also included gender sensitivity. The majority of police were males and it was important that they understood gender sensitivity and the social impact of domestic violence, which was about power. More than 70% of all specialised members were responsible for the investigation of Family Violence, Child Protection- and Sexual Offences-related crimes, and had completed specialised training (including training on the handling and investigation of cases involving domestic violence).

He noted that domestic violence cases reported increased considerably in 2007/08.

Comm Geldenhuys set out what steps must be taken under the Act. Station Commissioners and Supervisors must regularly peruse and inspect all DV registers and resource lists to monitor service delivery to victims of domestic violence. Cases of domestic violence, when reported, must be allocated to investigating officers or detectives for a full investigation, and they must in turn present the docket to a Prosecutor. Any SAPS member failing to comply would be charged with misconduct, and must have disciplinary proceedings launched, unless the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) directed otherwise. Evaluation services were conducted regularly to ensure compliance with the Act and the national instructions.

Sexual offences were committed both to gain power and control over the victim. In the case where sexual offences were reported, the Station Commissioner must gather information on all the available resources, such as Social Welfare, child protection and so forth, and take the victim to a place of shelter. He pointed out that there were only sixty shelters in the whole of South Africa.

In respect of counselling, he noted that some years ago the Station Commissioner at Philippi in Western Cape had got the community so involved in trying to reduce domestic violence that some offered to undergo a training course in trauma counselling. However, only seven out of the 21 participants were able to complete the course. Often magistrates would become voluntarily involved also and would assist the police at night.
Comm Geldenhuys then moved on to discuss the Sexual Offences Legislation. The implementation posed numerous challenges. The SAPS was obliged to do compulsory HIV testing of the alleged sexual offender, but his or her identity was often unknown. SAPS must offer prophylactic and post-trauma counselling. The National Register for Sex Offenders was not yet in operation, but must include crimes committed since 16 December 2007, including some repealed common law offences, such as previous cases of rape, indecent assault, bestiality, and incest. The new Act had created more than 66 new offences, had replaced some common law offences with expanded statutory offences such as rape and sexual assault, had abolished d gender and age discrimination, and created specific offences in order to protect children and mentally disabled persons, in respect of whom there was a specific duty to report. He noted that about 3 000 SAPS members would be trained next year on their responsibilities under this Act.

Comm Geldenhuys also noted that the Children’s Act of 2005 was not yet fully operational. SAPS Members again had to be trained to deal with the several changes that it brought about. He highlighted some of those changes, in particular that some children were now regarded as “in need of care and protection”, that the police would have to remove children if they needed “immediate emergency protection”, that there was an obligation to report on children who were abused, or neglected. A designated child protection organisation or provincial department of Social Development must report an offence against a child, and there were detailed prescripts on how to deal with children in need of care and protection. There were special provisions in relation to the removal of the offender from the home, on how to deal with children who were victims of trafficking, reporting of death of victims, prohibition on employment of those unsuitable to work with children, and enforcement of parental responsibilities and rights.

Superintendent M van Rooyen, Legal Department, SAPS, noted that she had been involved with discussions on and drafting of the Criminal Justice Act for the past ten to twelve years, and that it emanated from the opinion that children should not be dealt with under the normal Criminal Justice System. The minimum age of criminal capacity was raised from seven to ten years. A child below the age of ten who committed an offence was regarded as  a child in need of care and protection. The new Act provided for diversion away from the criminal justice system, so that children committing offences were not imprisoned but would instead be sent on one or several of the many programmes that could educate them into better conduct. The notion of restorative justice was also included. Children were not “getting away with” unlawful conduct but were instead made accountable in a manner that taught them responsibility. Restitution to the victim was very important both in bringing home the consequences of actions to the perpetrator and helping the victim in the healing process.

Supt van Rooyen outlined that children below the age of ten years could not usually be arrested but must be handed over to the parents for correction. However, some children might, depending on the circumstances, be removed to a place of safety such as a child and youth care centre. There were conditions for detention in such circumstances, such as that children must be held separately from adults, and boys separately from girls. There were other conditions around visits by parents, legal representatives, probation officers and so forth, and around care consistent with the special needs of children. The Act specified what must happen if a child was injured in detention, including full reports at the national level. Finally, the records of the offence could be expunged after a certain number of years.

Superintendant Susan Pienaar, (Head, Crime Prevention, SAPS), dealt with other crimes reported against women and children. She noted that, following the practice of ukuthwala had resulted in 353 cases in 2006, and 338 in 2007. There were 372 kidnapping offences in 2006 and 397 in 2007. SAPS played a role in preventing the crimes, and improving the Criminal Justice System response and support.

Ms Pienaar noted that where the ukuthwala and initiation practices were identified as relating to specific traditions, SAPS would work with the traditional authorities to try to address the issues, and to indicate where the practices violated laws. In the  Eastern Cape, together with the provincial Department of Health, SAPS would provide support for the enforcement of provincial legislation, to ensure that crimes and harmful practices in initiation schools were addressed. In Gauteng it would be holding a series of workshops. It also trained traditional authorities on the relevant legislation. Partnerships with communities were important, and the challenge was to uphold the law whilst retaining the respect for culture and tradition.
SAPS was also actively involved in the Child Justice and Child Care and Protection programmes. Its involvement related to ensuring that child offenders were dealt with in terms of the Interim Protocol, until implementation of the Child Justice Act (CJA), early intervention and referral, proactively responding to children in need of care and at risk, and ensuring that police stations were part of the local support networks for children at risk.

Challenges included the need for ongoing training to ensure compliance, gender sensitivity, the need to sensitise the community to the legislation and the roles and responsibilities of the different role players, and the need to ensure proper coordination between State departments, NGOs and community initiatives. All role players had to be available on a 24-hour basis.

The Chairperson was astonished that there were only sixty shelters in the country and asked why the register for sexual offenders was not yet operational.

Comm Geldenhuys noted that the Sexual Offence Register fell under the Department of Justice but SAPS was working very closely with that Department, and the two departments had computerised systems that linked up with each other. The budget required was something in the region of R300 million for the register to have the system in a position so that it could run effectively.

Ms Ramodibe said it was important to see the number of cases reported but would also like to know how many were dealt with and what was the time frame. She pointed out that the statistics given had not been particularly helpful.

Comm Geldenhuys noted that the figures had reflected the numbers of cases that were reported to SAPS, on which an investigation was conducted, and which were then referred to the prosecutors. That did not mean that those cases would proceed. In many instances, the victims would withdrawn their complaint.

The Chairperson asked if this meant that SAPS did not have the numbers as to how many cases were actually processed to finalisation.

Comm Geldenhuys confirmed that the numbers in his presentation were the cases processed by SAPS. Some of the cases might later have been withdrawn after referral to the court.

A Member asked how many were withdrawn.

Comm Geldenhuys said he would have to get those figures from the Department of Justice and their own systems. It was not something that was regularly reported upon. He would have to devise some way of getting the information out of the system.

The Chairperson said it was possible to do so as this information had been provided in the past.

Mr Kekana asked what role the Community Policing Forum played.

Comm Geldenhuys said that SAPS that they worked very closely with the Community Policing Forums (CPFs). These had a presence at almost every police station. In most cases, trauma counselling or victim support groups got assistance from CPF. CPF would also in some instances make volunteers available to assist in trauma debriefing, and in training members in debriefing.

Mr Kekana commented that the training did not seem to be showing any impact.

Comm Geldenhuys said that there would be a huge impact if people were promoted when they should not have been. It was very important that gender sensitivity, in particular, was the focus of training. South African society was still male-dominated, and it was vital to have refresher training to constantly enforce the sensitivity

Ms Robinson noted that the SAPS had to be available 24 hours a day and asked whether magistrates would be on call to assist.

Comm Geldenhuys said that sometimes magistrates were available to come out late at night. There was an agreement with the Department of Justice so that there was a list of people available to issue protection orders late at night. However, in a small town with only one magistrate it was not possible to have a standby list.

Ms Robinson asked whether the register of sexual offenders would also have to be consulted in respect of people who applied for employment or were working at Early Childhood Development Centres, crèches and other structures.

Comm Geldenhuys noted that there were two different registers, as pointed out by Childline. SAPS also agreed with Childline that there should have been only one register. However, Parliament had decided otherwise. A separate register, in respect of the Children’s Act, would be maintained by the Department of Social Development. SAPS supported that system in that it would provide information about previous convictions for crimes against children, but stressed that the computer systems must talk to one another.
Ms Ditshetelo asked whether facilities for disabled persons were included in the improved facilities.

Comm Geldenhuys noted that every police station was evaluated and SAPS was in the process of laying down minimum standards with regard to accessibility. All new police stations already had those facilities.

Ms Ditshetelo asked what the current figures were for crimes involving abduction through ukuthwala practices.

Comm Geldenhuys noted that he could not give the figures as they had not been verified.

Mr M Motimele (ANC) asked for details of the budget allocated for training.

Comm Geldenhuys responded that the SAPS did not have a single training allocation, and that although there was a budget for each course, he did not have the information available at present.

Ms Malgas said it was important for the Committee to know the overall budget for dealing with violence against women and children. Money was being put into training and other issues but the Members wanted to  see that the result was efficient and effective. She asked how the SAPS would measure the impact of its work.

Supt van Rooyen said it would be very difficult to give a budget, since the police rendered twenty-four hour service to everybody so it was a very difficult thing to isolate just one aspect.

Ms Malgas commended the idea of expungement of criminal records. She noted that there had been some successes in the Eastern Cape with the One Stop Youth Justice Centre, and understood that this was an idea that other countries also wished to adopt.

A Member said different committees had recently visited the Eastern Cape with regard to ukuthwala, and asked for details on the outcome of the investigation, and what plans were being put in place to deal with ukuthwala.

Supt van Rooyen noted that she had not been aware of the visit to the Eastern Cape to investigate ukuthwala, she was not aware of that visit and would follow that up.

A member asked how many cases were reported with regard to Ukuthwala.

Ms Duncan was very concerned that there were only two forensic laboratories in the country.

Supt van Rooyen said that there were in fact three laboratories; at Durban, Western Cape and Pretoria.

Ms Duncan said that she would like to hear more about improvements in the criminal justice system.

Supt van Rooyen said that there were ongoing initiatives to improve the criminal justice system overall and that all the departments were sharing information between themselves.

Ms Duncan noted that SAPS had spoken of victim support and improving facilities at police stations, and asked how many police stations in the rural areas had the Victim Empowerment Programmes, and how much had been allocated for training particularly pertaining to women.

Supt van Rooyen noted that there were widespread victim support facilities at various police stations, but there tended to be more facilities in the Western Cape. SAPS was looking at improving the number.

A Member asked whether there were programmes to educate the community on crime prevention.

Supt van Rooyen replied that any police station would do community outreach and awareness campaigns. The message was also available on the Internet.

The Chairperson stressed that the Committee did need statistics on rape cases.

Ms P Lebenya (IFP) asked whether any monitoring was done to see whether there was any difference after the programmes were rolled out.

Comm Geldenhuys said that this was a most important topic, with a difficult answer. The new Sexual Offences legislation came into operation on 16 December 2007. This had changed the definition as formerly rape could only be committed by a man against a woman, but now the definition was very much wider, and in addition a wide range of new sexual offences had been created. It was difficult, therefore, to do a direct comparison of rape cases prior to that date and after it. SAPS was looking at how best to compile comparisons and reflective statistics, but he warned that definitive deductions would only be possible to make after two full financial years. A further difficulty lay in educating the 180 000 SAPS members fully and ensuring that they were conversant with the provisions of the new legislation, and noting the crimes reported to them in the correct manner.

Ms Malgas asked how the SAPS measured impact.

Comm Geldenhuys responded that impact was measured on performance charts in police stations, and also in larger clusters in stations. Crime did not have borders. Certain priority police stations were identified where specific crimes were very prevalent. It might happen that in one area a certain type of crime would drop, but often result in displacement of crime in neighbouring areas. SAPS were trying to ensure that it was not easy for criminals simply to locate to other areas.

The Chairperson thanked Childline and SAPS for their presentations, saying it had been a very fruitful meeting and the committee was impressed with the information. The Committee would be following up on the issues through civil society and other means.

Adoption of report on strategic planning workshop
The Committee Secretary and Ms Kashifa Abrahams, Parliamentary Researcher, tabled the report on the Committee’s recent Strategic Planning Workshop, and explained the changes they had made regarding the legislation audit and the stakeholder audit on page 10.

The report was adopted.

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