Meeting SummaryThe Department of Justice gave a presentation on its involvement in the Clusters, and how these were addressing issues of women and children. It noted that the Child Justice Act recently passed had been unique in adopting a rights-based approach in which all rights were indivisible, inter related and inter dependent with the Constitutional principle of regarding the best interests of the child as paramount in every situation. The Department explained that although the departments sat together in intersectoral committees, they retained individual accountability, and outlined how the committees enabled the problems to be timeously raised and disposed of. It was now recognised that a child in conflict with the law was most often a child in need of care, rather than one who required intervention from the justice situation, and it was also recognised that the various departments should be tackling the causes and not just the effects of violence, family breakdown and social and sexual crimes. There was a need for training and this was fully recognised in the Child Justice Act.
The Department described the implementation of the Child Justice Act, noting that although the Act was passed, it would only come into effect on 1 April 2010, and that the intervening months the Department had to set up the systems, which were to be presented to Parliament in December 2009. In addition, there were some built-in dates for review, including the review of the age of criminal competence, within five years. There had been a generic training manual compiled and many non government organizations had already been doing training on the different sentencing options contemplated under the new Act. The Department described the secure care facilities, and said that a seat of a court could also be established in a one stop centre or care facility, to allow all processes to be dealt with more rapidly and with the least possible trauma. One of the centres had won awards for excellence and South Africa was being used a model for consolidation of children’s services. The diversion policy was described, and it was noted that there was a huge increase of diversion orders, with a consequent decrease of children becoming fully involved in the criminal justice system. Programmes had to be quality controlled by departments through an accreditation system. The concept of restorative justice was briefly explained and it was noted that recidivism was much lower with children who had undergone restorative justice programmes. The numbers of home-based supervisions were also increasing.
The Department explained what was being done in regard to the Sexual Offences legislation, outlining the training and the still pressing need for change management. Although the principles of Batho Pele were entrenched, there was not always full understanding of what they meant. Once again the National Policy Framework would address the causes of sexual violence and intervene to try to promote preventative measures.
The Western Cape Network then gave its presentation, noting that it reflected the point of view of service providers and the clients that they served. –The main challenges in the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act were the lack of physical protection for women getting protection orders, not just once the order was granted, but during the very process of getting the order. There was lack of integration of facilities, which meant that women were at risk. There was a need for more training at charge offices, and a need to sensitise all officials who were often the point of first contact, and change attitudes of police officers. There was a lack of resources to support implementation once Acts were passed. Both the officials and the victims were often not fully aware of the distinctions between the remedies that were available.
The Network reported that the main challenges in the Sexual Offences Act, although it was a most progressive piece of legislation, lay in the conservative approaches of the Courts in regard to follow ups, the lack of protection to victims when giving evidence, and the secondary trauma that resulted, the lack of proper funding to provide, for instance, closed circuit television and mediators for children, and the fact that the conviction rate was still low in relation to the numbers of offences reported. The Network recommended that the Department of Justice should be monitored by this Committee as well as the Portfolio Committee on Justice to check that the intended actions by the Department were indeed carried out. The Network noted that femicide was a growing problem, exacerbated by the lack of facilities for women once they had left a shelter, with the result that many returned to the abusive or dangerous situation that they had been in and which had led to their abuse. It was recommended that the Department of Human Settlements should be more involved in providing housing for these vulnerable women. Another growing problem was child murder, often of children who had also been raped, and although the focus was currently on the perpetrators, the Network suggested that attention should also be paid to whether neglect by the parents had led to the child being put in a vulnerable situation.
Members asked the Department of Justice to address questions on The numbers of children being held in Correctional Service facilities, the budget to run the Acts, and how the apparent shortfalls in the budget would be addressed, the numbers of children being arrested and how the new systems should lead to the decrease of children in the criminal justice system, what was done about children involved in serious offences, including drug offences, where they were often being used by adults to commit crimes. Further questions concerned what exactly was contained in the training, what was being done to address shortages of social workers, the lack of adequate staffing and functioning of trauma centres, whether the courts were all accessible to the disabled, and how specialization would be maintained if the sexual offences courts were mainstreamed. The turnaround time for cases, issues about maintenance, the lack of collective studies on the impact of domestic violence and how the two Registers for offenders under the Children’s Act and the Sexual Offences Act would work together, as well as the import of the register for educators, were also discussed. The progress on the Traditional Courts Bill and the Trafficking Bill were outlined.
Members asked the Network about the problems of turnover of volunteers at trauma centres and the need for integrated and improved training, issues of bail, including whether bail would be provided to women who, after years of abuse, killed their abusive partner. It was noted that often women who killed their partners received heavier sentences because their actions tended to be premeditated. Members were concerned about lack of counselling, secondary victimisation of children who had been raped, the interaction of the Network with other groups, and whether it had a national reach, whether the Network also focused on protecting Older Persons, and the need for further training, particularly of magistrates and prosecutors.
Violence against Women and related matters: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ or the Department) briefing
Adv Simon Jiyane, Deputy Director General: Court Services, Department of Justice & Constitutional Development indicated that the Department took part in two clusters. In the Justice and Crime Prevention and Security cluster, the DOJ was the coordinator of activities relating to protection of vulnerable groups, and other departments involved were the Departments of Social Development, Correctional Services, Police and Home Affairs. It also participated in the Social Cluster. He asked Members to bear in mind that although the Department was today doing an individual presentation, its work was cross-cutting.
Adv Shireen Said, Chief Director: Vulnerable Groups, DOJ, explained that the strategic objectives were at a high level, on a rights based framework so a lot of the strategic objectives were at a very high level. She said that often people would be involved in justice services as a last resort, although many of their needs had social causes.
She outlined the key performance indicators to protect the rights of children. The Department of Social Development (DSD) was the lead department, with the Department of Justice becoming involved when children entered the courts system, by which time they would already have been dealt with by DSD and the South African Police Service (SAPS). The Children’s Act, Chapter 4, and the National Policy Framework on Child Justice were of import. Another objective was to increase the number of children diverted from the formal justice system by ten percent.
She noted that in respect of women and children the Department sought to implement restorative justice and attempted to resolve disputes without litigation. The Department managed the implementation of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Amendment Act (the Sexual Offences Act). The Department had to provide adequate family law services to protect the interest of children, through the Family Advocate. The Department coordinated and implemented the Child Justice Act, through the Intersectoral Committee on Child Justice, the
Sexual Offences Act, through the Intersectoral Committee on Sexual Offences, and the Restorative Justice Policy Framework, through the Restorative Justice Task Team. Although the DOJ was responsible for the framework, other departments still maintained individual accountability. The thrust of DOJ was to deliver a justice service that was more therapeutic and restorative in nature than in the past, and that tried to coordinate service delivery, and that was seen in the latest Acts. The Cluster approach enabled the Departments, at Steering Committee level, to solve problems without having to approach each department and wait for the internal processes to happen. These steering committees were usually chaired by a Chief Director, and problems could also be referred to the Development Committee, which was chaired by the Deputy Director General, and the two committees enabled quicker policy and problem solving interventions.
Adv Said moved on to describe the implementation of the Child Justice Act of 2008 (the CJA). She noted that it was one of the first pieces of legislation that would, on the date of implementation, already have an operational system to support it. She commended the Portfolio Committee on Justice for insisting that all processes and systems, such as the Diversion Framework, must be tabled in Parliament by December 2009, and the Act would come into operation on 1 April 2010. The National Policy Framework was adopted by the Directors-General Intersectoral Committee, which was then presented and approved by the Ministers responsible for the administration of justice, and a year after the Act came into effect the Policy Framework must be tabled in Parliament. That was one of the strong monitoring processes in the event of the bill to ensure that there was accountability at every stage, and also that there was a guiding ethos and principle.
After five years the age of criminal capacity for children must be reviewed. She explained that under the current law, children were presumed not capable of committing a crime under the age of seven. Children from seven to fourteen were in a different category. Although the law raised the age of criminal capacity to ten, the Portfolio Committee on Justice had decided to assess how many children were going through the courts and whether legal or social intervention might be required.
Adv Said outlined some of the unique features of the CJA. It took a rights-based approach, and all rights were indivisible, inter related and inter dependent with the Constitutional principle that the best interests of the child were paramount in every situation. Accountability was another important feature. The Act recognised that sometimes a child in conflict with the law did not necessarily need the justice system’s intervention, but may be a child in need of care under the DSD. Monitoring and evaluation was entrenched by the training requirements of the Act, which insisted that all people working in the area were trained first to look at child development and understand the child's needs in order to formulate the best response. Oversight was done by the National Intersectoral Child Justice Steering Committee (ISCCJ), which met on a monthly basis to look at the issues of child justice, and this was at the level of Director General so that higher and more speedy policy interventions could be made. The current committee also included representatives from civil society organizations, the National House of Traditional Leaders and some of the Chapter 9 Institutions. It further included representatives from the magistracy and Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services. Nine Provincial Justice fora, headed by the DoJ, were set up in each of the nine regions, to aid quicker interventions, and had already been in operation for two and a half years.
Much training had already commenced, and the Department had developed a generic training manual. Many NGOs had already done rounds of training on the CJA and non custodial options, getting presiding officers to think of a different way of sentencing children that did not involve prison sentences, but rather aimed to remedy behaviour. The Department coupled some of the requirements of the Children's Act and the Child Justice Act for the secure care centres. A seat for the court could be proclaimed in a one –stop centre or secure care facility, so that the processes of bail and plea could be run all at once. There were two centres at the moment, and one, Mangaung Centre in Free State had won the US Award for Service Excellence, whilst South Africa was used as a model for many countries in Africa in terms of consolidating children's services when in trouble with the law. Additional centres were being rolled out in KZN and North West.
Adv Said noted that until recently, diversion was never really recognised in South African law, so that much had been informally through the National Institute for Crime and Rehabilitation of Offenders (NICRO). However, it was now formally written into the law that a person pleading guilty and taking accountability for his or her actions could be sent on a programme rather than receiving a criminal record. All diversion programmes had to be quality controlled by departments through an accreditation system. DSD currently had an accreditation framework and managed diversion. Parliament could check the quality of the criteria. The idea was that the children would not re-offend. Statistics across the world showed that children, even child sex offenders, who had gone through a programme of management had lower recidivism rates.
One of the challenges for government was that indicators were not always in a rights based framework, so the indicators may be a priority for DoJ, but not for DSD. The indicators DoJ used for Child Justice were developed on the UN Standard of Indicators and were contextualised.
Adv Said noted that Integrated Case Management Systems had already been completed by the DoJ but now needed to be interfaced with other Government departments, to ensure that one case bore the same reference number throughout. DoJ had already commenced draft regulations and once internally approved would be ready to present in December.
Adv Said reviewed the work of the National Intersectoral Child Justice Steering Committee (ISCCJ). Since 2005 the number of children in Department of Correctional Services (DSC) facilities had decreased by 50%. The CJA said that a non-custodial sanction would not be a conditional or postponed sentence, but that a child could be ordered to undergo programmes, such as anger management, and that if that condition was not met, then the child would not automatically be referred to custody. Within the NICRO programmes, 107 children were sentenced to non-custodial sanctions over a period of one year. It was possible that numbers of children being held in DCS facilities had also dropped because more diversion services were being provided. The number of home-based supervisions was also increased, so more children were ordered to undergo this than being detained until trial. It was run by the DSD. There was also an increase of children through the Children's Court enquiries. There was around 87% representation by the Legal Aid Board.
Adv Said noted that the Children’s Act and the Children’s Amendment Act used the same structures as the Equality Courts. She noted that the Sexual Offences Act had come into operation almost immediately after being passed, so there were still challenges in getting the systems into place. The Intersectoral Committee dealt predominantly with the National Policy Framework as well as the implementation of the Act. Although the policy framework must be tabled in Parliament within a year, this might not be achieved. The number of intermediaries to help children in these matters had been increased, and would reach 230 this year, but there were challenges in coordination between DOJ and DSD. Some training had been done, but not enough, and change management was the biggest challenge across the public service. Batho Pele principles were good, but understanding what they meant and putting them into operation would take some time. Sexual offences were the responsibility of all South Africans. The National Policy Framework had to look at the causes of sexual violence and intervene at that level, rather than reacting to the problems after they occurred. Adv Said noted that specialisation of services was needed for both sexual offences and also for children's rights. The Thuthuzela Centres of the National Prosecution Authority were quite successful, where there was holistic intervention. The National Register for Sex Offenders had been prepared by DOJ, but there were challenges with the interfacing with other departments.
In respect of the Implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA), Adv Said did not think there was any statistic or study, either in the public or private sector, that had really understood the full impact of domestic violence on the workplace, the home the general psyche, and on children. A boy child of an abused mother often ended up being an abusive parent, and a girl child of an abused mother would often form relationships with abusive males. The causes of domestic violence had to be looked at. Support structures were provided through the Victim Empowerment Programme that was managed by the DSD. Interim housing involved the Department of Human Settlements. Interdict orders often caused other problems as many fathers had killed or injured their partners because they were frustrated by having to support the family whilst not permitted to live with them.
The Chairperson drew the Members' attention to the fact that the Child Justice Act was passed on 21 November 2008, but would only come into operation on 1 April 2010. She said Parliament was under huge pressure from civil society who wanted to know why the legislation was not yet implemented.
Mr G Selau (ANC) referred to the indicators and the fact that the departments had different priorities, and asked if the departments could meet and discuss the Act thoroughly. He also asked what the exact number was of the decrease of children being held in DCS centres.
The Chairperson asked what other sanctions had been imposed.
Mr Selau asked what the budget was to run the Act.
Mr Selau asked whether the report in the Sunday Times that 11000 children were arrested every month was correct.
Ms D Robinson (DA) found the presentation very good, but said it assumed that the Members had a lot of background knowledge, which she, and presumably other new Members to this Committee, did not have. She asked that copies of the legislation be provided and said that more background, information and references were also needed. She asked for more details as to what magistrates and police were being trained upon.
Ms H Makhuba (IFP) supported Ms Robinson’s requests for more information for new Members. She noted that there was a shortage of social workers and DOJ must work in conjunction with DSD. She asked if anything was being done to assist DSD to source more social workers. She asked whether the departments encountered problems in identifying children in need. She asked which department was involved in reform schools, which had not been mentioned, and whether there were plans to set up more, as often children were moved far from their homes. She also commented that if there were trauma centres in police stations for children or women, they were certainly not being adequately staffed, especially at night.
The Chairperson concurred with Ms Makhuba on the lack of social workers, and said that the Committee needed to make government aware that social workers were underpaid and were unwilling to accept jobs, which would hinder implementation.
A Member asked whether the Children's Courts were accessible to disabled persons and persons with special needs. She noted that budgetary allocations had been presented to this Committee, showing that for the Sexual Offences Act, R25.5 million had been allocated. R19 million was allocated for the Children’s Act implementation and R2.8 million for the Child Justice Act. She asked if this was based on low cost, or full cost, whether the departments would be able to implement the laws comprehensively, and whether the amounts were ring-fenced. Apparently at least R300 million had been requested to start implementing the Children’s Act, and she asked, in view of the shortfall between budget and allocation, what would be covered and what strategies were in place to ensure adequate funding.
Ms H Malgas (ANC) referred to integrating the sexual offences courts into the mainstream and asked how specialization would be ensured. She wondered if the same problems would not arise when the Child Protection Units (CPUs) were reintroduced. She noted that a child working with drug lords was problematic and wondered how restorative justice principles would apply in respect of very serious offences. She asked what the turnaround time was, with cases, as she thought it might be about 60 days, and asked whether it could not be speeded up to avoid problems with witnesses. She noted that she knew of a case where a woman was raped three years ago, yet the case still was not finalised.
Ms Malgas commented that the Correctional Centre at St Albans was very good in respect of children, and she commended the Department on the One Stop Centres such as Marina House in Port Elizabeth. She said that she was aware of someone who had committed an offence whilst at high school, had completed a restorative programme, and had managed to turn himself around and complete his degree. She was concerned about the Victim Empowerment Centres and said that something needed to be done to assist women coming out such centres, as they clearly should not return to the abusive partner. She wondered if the churches could be of assistance.
Ms D Ramodibe (ANC) echoed Ms Robinson's plea for supporting documentation to assist the Committee in doing oversight. She noted that no figures were given for victims in different areas. She thought it was important to have these statistics, as well as the number of cases handled in a period. She asked whether the Equality Courts, being limited in their infrastructure, were workable. She believed that the budgets and timeframes were not acceptable given the importance of the issues. She asked what was happening about enforcing maintenance from the male partners, noting that the status of maintenance seemed to have dropped since introduction of the Child Support Grant. She noted her disappointment that no comprehensive collective studies had been done on the impact of domestic violence, particularly since Parliament was trying to ensure integrated planning and implementation.
The Chairperson noted that all Members, since they came from different provinces, would need to understand exactly how to report back to their constituencies. She said there was a need to promote the Equality Courts as very few people were aware of them. She asked why it seemed that the Department was only now holding discussions with the Department of Human Settlements in respect of the DVA.
Ms Malgas referred to the National Register for Sex Offenders. She asked how the two registers, one for the Children's Act and one under the Sexual Offences Act, would be integrated so they were used effectively and efficiently.
The Chairperson asked how much was needed to put the registers together.
Adv Said welcomed the engagement with Members. She said that Members, when visiting their constituencies, could ask the Department to assist and perhaps take Members through the business processes so that they understood them and could make comments on them. She apologised if not enough information had been provided, but said she was not sure how much time she would have to make her presentation.
Adv Said noted that the Child Justice Act was legislated to come into effect on 1 April 2010. This Act dealt with children in conflict with the law, and should be distinguished from the Children’s Act, where certain sections were not yet in force. The date of implementation of the Child Justice Act was entrenched in the Act when it was presented to both Houses of Parliament. She said that Members should take note of whether this was in an Act when it was passed. In the Children’s Act, it was the prerogative of the Minister to say when it would come into operation. DOJ would be running information sessions on the CJA and she suggested that some members might like to attend as it would give them a broader understanding of the provisions of the Act. It might also be useful if the Committee could visit a One Stop Centre. She noted that it made a huge difference to both Department and Committees if Members could attend conferences.
Adv Said responded to the question on the indicators by saying that in the joint committees the DOJ used the indicators based on UN indicators for Child Justice, but had contextualised them for South Africa, in conjunction with different departments. She noted that the indicators would be tabled before the Committee later in the year.
Adv Said noted that on average, prior to 2005, between 1 000 and 1 100 children were detained or sentenced per month, but that was now about half that number. When the Bill was being discussed by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, the SAPS had presented statistics showing that a certain number of children would be arrested and charged, but that within 48 hours about half of those children would have been identified as children in need of care or referral services. These assessments on children within 48 hours were required by the Probation Services Act, and if it was found that they were not being done, then the National Committee would take up the problem to find out if there was a policy problem or lack of social workers. There was a very quick response rate, especially on Child Justice, and the approach was interventionist, to find out those children in need of care.
Adv Said reported that social workers were a DSD responsibility countrywide. The Probation Services Act had expanded the pool of social workers by ensuring that there were auxiliary social workers, those who had a certain amount of training but had not yet completed it, to support the social workers. The shortages and how these were being addressed should be taken up with the DSD.
Adv Said noted that the ethos and curriculum of the reform schools had been quite fragmented. Originally the Intersectoral Committee on Child Justice had representation from departments in the criminal justice sector, but had since been expanded to include the Departments of Home Affairs, Education and Labour, because services ran across those departments. The Department of Education had historically been tasked with the responsibility of putting up the Schools of Industry as well as Reform Schools. Reform schools were for children who were sentenced but were sent to reform school programmes to help them revise their behaviour, when their crimes were not so intensive or serious. There were only four functional reform schools in the country. DSD was now taking over responsibility, to ensure that there would be better integration and better services, and the Children’s Act provided a period of two years to ensure integration and the hand over process. Effectively, the four reform schools would remain, but they would be subsumed under Child and Youth Care Centres. The CJA had a large diversion programme, but also a huge and important non-custodial programme. The idea was not to detain children in institutions but rather to have more programmes, which need not be institution based, so that some children, when deemed appropriate by the Presiding Officer, might stay with their families whilst carrying out their sentences.
Adv Said responded to the comments on the VEP by pointing out that these were housed in SAPS premises and run by SAPS and DSD collectively. Although DOJ was not involved in them, she offered to take the comments forward to the cluster led by DSD, on which the DOJ also sat.
Adv Said noted that there were fifty-three Sexual Offences Courts dedicated to managing only sexual offences. However a person in the Northern Cape might have to travel far to Kimberley or Upington to access services. The idea was to introduce specialised services also at the magistrate’s courts. It was not so much the institutional structure that made the difference, as opposed to the appropriate training programmes and appropriate personnel with specialised training. Accessibility to specialised services would be widened, and the lesser time taken to access the services would hopefully also lessen the trauma and expense for the victim. She said that this also raised questions of access to transport. She noted that the CPUs were only covering a certain population and once again the question was what was the best model in terms of specialised services.
Adv Jiyane added that some questions had been raised about the Equality Courts. The numbers of cases being processed in these courts did not match what had been expected. Government was trying to build up proper infrastructure to ensure that they had fully trained personnel who could assist those who approached the courts. The Minister had announced last Friday that all district courts had the facility and ability to function as Equality Courts. A programme was launched where the Department would collaborate with civil society to inform people on issues of access to justice, and the services of Equality Courts, as well as offer specific programmes on which he would forward information to Members.
Adv Said responded to the questions about serious crime. The situation where adults, such as drug lords, used children was recognised by the CJA. Studies had shown that at least 50% of our crime currently being dealt with in the Criminal Justice System was committed by children. Often adults would use children to commit crime because, if they were caught, they would receive lower sentences. Children with disabilities were also used, particularly if they could not comprehend that they would be getting themselves into trouble. The Central Drug Authority was also linked to child justice issues.
In respect of children’s courts, Adv Said reported that there were 366 Magistrate's Courts and the Children's Courts were located in the general magisterial districts. Courts were being renovated, wherever possible, to make them wheelchair-friendly, and where they could not be renovated other plans were being in place to ensure that they were accessible. Turnaround times for child justice were three to six months for children in the District Courts. Cases that took longer were usually more complex. In the Regional Court, the turnaround was six to nine months and in the High Court nine to twelve months. Cases involving children and vulnerable groups were prioritised.
Adv Jiyane augmented these comments, saying that Child Forums were established in all provinces’ prosecution services to ensure that when children came against the criminal justice system they were identified and assisted as quickly as possible. He said that notwithstanding this there remained some inefficiencies in the system. The DOJ could only influence, but did not drive, the speed at which cases were treated in the courts, since this was the role of the judiciary. However, it had set up policy guidelines around Integrated Case Law Management, and that process was introduced to all of the lower courts. The introduction of the process took longer than was anticipated but there were now guidelines for all stakeholders as to how cases should be addressed. Once those guidelines were implemented correctly, Court Performance Standards would be set up for the entire country.
With regard to the points raised about the involvement of the Department of Human Settlements, Adv Said noted that there had been a review last year, which showed clearly that everyone must be involved in respect of vulnerable groups. The traumas of the past, including the legacy of apartheid, manifested themselves in many ways, including domestic and sexual violence. The impacts of domestic violence on human capital and the workplace had not been investigated anywhere in the world. Clearly, women who were leaving the VEP centres could not return to their same abusive environments, and the same considerations must also apply with rape and sexual offences, many of which were committee in poorly-lit areas through which women would have to walk.
Adv Said distinguished between maintenance and the child grant. Sadly, many women did not recognise the difference, and assumed that they would be given “a maintenance grant”. Literacy and legal literacy levels were low, and so information sessions would be rolled out so that information would be available at clinics to assist women to hold the fathers liable to support their children.
The Chairperson noted that the point was that there must be follow-up after maintenance applications had been made.
Ms Robinson noted that in her constituency maintenance was ordered, but was not paid by fathers after divorce so that families who were previously managing found themselves struggling to put food on the table.
Adv Said responded that DOJ had put up automated infrastructure to address the challenges of money going through the electronic transfers, to try to speed up the payouts of money paid into court. Although a review had been done on the maintenance system, the results were not yet finalised. One of the problems had been that people would approach clerks of the court. The DOJ had trained some of the clerks to act as go-betweens, so that children were not being used for this, and found out that this had assisted in getting disputes resolved and money paid. There were still challenges.
Adv Jiyane added that after the legislation was amended about five years ago to improve maintenance handling, additional capacity was added by appointing maintenance officers. However, he pointed out that there were other problems. Sometimes women would ask for assistance, but had very little information where the fathers of the children could be found or were working, and maintenance investigators would have to try to locate them. Where they were able to locate the fathers, they could recoup the arrears, and also might be able to help to access pensions or the proceeds of sale of immovable property.
Adv Said explained that the Thuthuzela Centres were the One Stop Centres. These were predominantly managed by the National Prosecution Authority, and related to medical and therapy personnel being on hand in one place for victims of rape. They also ensured that all the right evidence was collected in one centre as soon as the rape was reported.
Adv Said then referred to the two registers, explaining that they served different purposes. The Child Registers aimed to be protective. The register under the Sexual Offences Act would contain the names of people who had been charged with and convicted of a criminal offence of a sexual nature. The register under the Children’s Act was an administrative register managed by DSD’s Director General to lessen the abuse of children, but those who had failed to take care of children or had abused them in some way would not have to have been convicted formally before being listed.
Ms Malgas asked how the register for educators would work and how they would collaborate.
Adv Said responded that there was no education register legislated for, but there would be an education register managed by the trade unions, and this still needed to be discussed, as the DOJ was concerned about yet another register being created.
Adv Jiyane noted that he chaired the JCPS cluster committee, and the DOJ was determining priorities and setting up indicators so that there was some level of integration. The strategic framework developed across the cluster linked up most of these issues and programmes across departments so that they could be measured against the desired Government objectives. Shortage of social workers was problematic, and was felt in the criminal justice environment, because all departments involved in the criminal justice area were now being enabled to have corrective engagement with the prevention of crime. Community initiatives were being taken across the cluster to try to address the causes of dysfunctional families and socio economic conditions.
He added that although Government was attending to the remuneration of professionals, social workers seemed to be considered last. He was sure that DSD was currently involved in finalising the Occupation Specific Dispensation for the social workers, which would perhaps bring about some changes. The review of the entire Criminal Justice system was approved by Cabinet a few years ago. This aimed to identify the blockages in the system, one of which related to the lack of capacity and resources. In the past, departments would approach National Treasury separately for budgets, which had resulted in some departments receiving very sizeable budgets, whilst others that played key roles in the chain did not receive sufficient attention. DSD had fallen into this category in respect of its part in criminal justice matters. It was now being addressed in the Seven Point plan. Another area of focus was detective services, as the failure to detect crime had created the wrong perceptions. He added that many of the courts had not been built to be disabled-friendly, and DOJ had asked for a special budget from Government for conversion of the courts as part of a three-year programme.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) asked whether the Department was using the Traditional Courts as Children's Courts in the rural areas.
Ms Tseke noted that there were now less than 250 days to commencement of the 2010 World Cup and asked what preparations had been made to prevent human trafficking
The Chairperson asked if the DoJ was dealing with the Traditional Courts Bill.
Adv Said reported that this was currently being processed by the Portfolio Committee on Justice. The Trafficking Bill was not yet introduced but should be on the schedule for the Portfolio Committee on Justice. The trafficking issue was not necessarily linked to 2010. There was a widely held perception that it dealt with trafficking for the purposes of sex, but there was a transitional provision within the Sexual Offences Act for the purposes of trafficking for sex. There were also protective measures for children who had been trafficked in the Children's Act. Trafficking happened predominantly in Africa because of socio-economic need, and was not always linked to sex, but people might end up in exploitative labour or migrant labour. Migrant issues were different in Africa and internationally. Processes were already in place and would be coordinated for the World Cup and other processes would be put in place once the new Bill was introduced and passed.
Adv Jiyane clarified that the Traditional Courts Bill had been presented to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and a similar presentation to this Committee might be useful. Civil society had raised a number of concerns about the Bill, and it was important to take this Committee through the substantive contents of the Bill. It had been necessary to do a comprehensive review of the previous legislation, to check for unconstitutionality, and only two sections of the Black Administration Act were still in force, to allow for a transition process until the new Traditional Courts legislation came into force.
Adv Jiyane then clarified the issue of the budgets that was raised earlier. He noted that because the Child Justice Act came into operation after completion of the budgets, there was no budget as yet for implementation. Department of Justice had decided to allocate from its general budget. In the 2009 – 2010 cycle it had put aside R25.5 million for implementation of the Sexual Offences Act, R90 million for implementing the Children’s Act, and R5.5 million for the Child Justice Act. However, the Cluster had received a budget from National Treasury for implementation of child justice, and there were discussions on how the DOJ would get a budget. The Cluster had R50 million for 2010/11, R100 million for 2012, and R150 million for 2012/13. The costing of the Children's Act required a low level scenario of R300 million for the implementation of the Act, but at the same time there was a need to be realistic as to what the Government could afford, so only R19 million was being put forward for this year.
Violence Against Women: Western Cape Network (the Network) briefing
Ms Lungiswa Memela, Director, Western Cape Network, briefed the Committee on the current status of violence against women in South Africa. She noted that the presentation represented the view of the service providers, but also represented the voices of women, especially those in shelters, but not the legal point of view. The focus was on implementation and the challenges and successes the organisation had experienced.
Ms Memela commended government because South Africa had some of the most progressive laws in the world. However, there were challenges in implementation. Statistics showed that if a boy learnt to abuse at the age of six, then it was too late to try to intervene and prevent him becoming an abuser when he reached adulthood. In 2005 the campaign “Every Six Days” had highlighted that in South Africa a woman was killed by her male partner every six days. However, two years the statistics reflected that a woman was being killed by her male partner every six hours. This clearly indicated a major problem.
Ms Memela noted that in terms of the Domestic Violence Act women could be granted shared residence, so instead of women having to move into a shelter the perpetrator could be ordered instead to remove himself from the family home. This meant less disruption for the children in terms of schools and transport. However, many women did not ask for such an order because they would then need protection. She cited a case two years ago in Khayelitsha when two children were burnt to death as a result of a removed partner having set the house alight during the night. This showed that although protection was provided for in the Act, it was not happening on the ground.
The DVA also broadened the description of domestic violence and incorporated other domestic issues besides the intimate relationship between two partners, including relationships other than heterosexual ones and also parents being abused by children. The percentage of women using protection orders had risen, and statistics showed that more women were reporting than ever before, which meant more women had learnt about and were using their rights. There was better compliance from the police but it still left room for improvement. There was also better compliance by the judiciary and support for standardised training.
Ms Memela referred to the question asked earlier by Members around the trauma rooms at police stations and noted that both SAPS and Community Safety were involved. With the support of Business Against Crime, the Network was able to coordinate the trauma rooms for Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) that brought all the departments together. Service providers provided training for volunteers in trauma rooms, and the Network brought the organisations together to look at standardising training, so that all their manuals were incorporated. Sessions were held with the police and the volunteers, and space was created for the volunteers to identify what was working for them and what was not. There was also a model around orientation of volunteers by the Station Commander.
Ms Memela noted that there were still various challenges around implementation. Firstly, she reiterated that there was lack of physical protection for women needing protection orders against their partners. The Sheriff who was to serve the orders was not at the court, so the women would need to pay not only for service, but also for transport to those offices. Many women had been caught and beaten by their partners when they were actually in the process of visiting the various offices necessary to get the Order. Although there was training given to higher level SAPS officers, not all personnel at the charge offices, the first point of contact for the victim, were trained. SAPS also needed to change their attitude, as they often brought issues of culture or personal issues into the workplace. There was a lack of resources to support implementation. There was confusion amongst women and SAPS as to the difference between protection orders and interdicts, and laying a criminal charge, and women were not advised properly.
Ms Memela then discussed the Sexual Offences Act. This was also a very broad based Act. She noted that there had been successes through the Thuthuzela Centres, because all necessary services were provided at one place to a woman who had been sexually abused. More of these centres were needed. The Act had also broadened the definition of rape, and was progressive also in the fact that it included a specific section in regard to children. She also welcomed the addition of the Register, but said that there was some challenge in how the registers were integrated and supported each other.
The challenges included the fact that the courts were still very conservative in terms of follow-up of what the Act required. There was also still lack of protection during court processes. Especially in cases of rape, there was secondary victimisation arising from questions such as where the victim was, what she was wearing, what had been said, and the fact that she was once again having to face the perpetrator. Although the rate of conviction was rising, it was still low in relation to the number of cases reported. The allocation of resources was still a challenge, including the provision of closed circuit television for children to give evidence, the support to children by intermediaries, training of magistrates, and the need for magistrates to understand the context of violence and other abuse. She said also that many of the statistics were outdated, and more money was needed for research. The Committee needed to do oversight to engage with the Act, and there needed to be strong monitoring that the actions promised were actually carried out.
Ms Memela noted that femicide, the killing of women by their intimate partner, was a growing phenomena needing attention. There was not much support for women who had chosen to leave the situation, and more than 90% of women who had been in shelters chose to go back to their partners. The Network would like to see that women only returned after making an informed choice and genuinely wished to give their partner another chance, not because they lacked financial independence to care for themselves and their children, or lacked any other place to go.
Another issue that was growing in the Western Cape was that of child murders, including children who had been raped and then killed. The law was looking mainly at the perpetrator. However, Ms Memela personally felt that something must be done about parents who had had some part in the child being allowed to go with someone known to the parents, or with another member of their community, or who had allowed a small child to go out on his or her own. Parents were not providing protection for their children. She suggested a parent centre or a service provider for whatever process, such as drug or alcohol abuse.
There was a cycle of domestic violence that was personal, where the woman was forgiving towards a partner who had apologised, but there was also the service provision cycle where each time a woman came back from a shelter the violence was worse because the family issue had been exposed.
Ms Memela also noted that a Member had raised a question previously about the role of the church. She said that this extended to the community in general, including the religious institutions, because many people belonged to some religious structure that could be supportive.
Ms Memela noted that she had provided an information kit to Members on a programme for prevention of violence against women, focusing on negative social laws. The Network hoped to establish a supportive relationship with the Committee.
A Member asked for clarity about the offices situated in different buildings, so that women seeking protection orders had to go from one to the other.
Another member was also concerned about the offices in Mitchell's Plein, which involved precisely this issue, and said that it would have been desirable for the Committee to do oversight there, as it was close.
Ms Memela responded on the process at the court at Mitchell's Plein. The first office handled family maintenance and protection orders, but would merely provide a case number. The women would still have to write a statement, present this to the magistrate. She made the point that everything should be able to be done at one site, to avoid delays and safety issues.
A member commented that it was a pity this presentation was not made prior to the presentation by the Department of Justice, because it seemed to raise many questions for that Department to answer, particularly around issues of conservative attitudes by courts and lack of protection to the victims.
Ms Robinson expressed her concern about people doing duty in trauma centres. She referred in particular to the centre in Atlantis, but thought that this probably applied also to others, where the people received no remuneration, not even a stipend. Although it was wonderful that they were prepared to give up their time and attend courses, there was a large turnover and lack of continuity, and there were some issues about the quality of the training. She felt that the Committee should look at legislation to improve the service, and provide for permanent personnel, not merely volunteers, and also look at whether the charge office was genuinely helping or was turning people away. She knew of a small boy who was raped, necessitating a lot of treatment at the Red Cross Children’s hospital, yet neither the child nor his family received any counselling, and on his return to school he was teased by other scholars, causing further victimisation. Many issues were falling through the cracks. She was also concerned that bail was given far too easily for serial offenders. Often women’s group organisations would have to protest outside the court and plead with prosecutors not to allow bail. Parliament should be ensuring that these issues were addressed properly, and that the neglect was being attended to. If the Network could assist with that it would really be doing a service to women in general.
Ms Memela said that the question of remuneration round the trauma rooms was a major challenge. Volunteering needed to be promoted, so that people had a culture of giving to others. In most cases, in South Africa, the volunteers were people who were out of work and had time on their hands. If they were paid then they would not be volunteers. Perhaps a stipend would help to at least cover their minimum costs. She noted, in respect of training, that the first batch of standardised training was finished in March, and was now going to be referred out also to the peri urban rural areas. Community Safety was the topic to be dealt with at the end of July, where the organisation service providers had to tender for that training. By the end of next year all police stations should have been trained according to the manual. The training would be the same for every station wherever it was located.
Ms N Madlala (ANC) asked whether the Network was a national or provincial organisation, and whether it had any relationship with other women's organisations. The issue was important because issues differed from province to province and customs also contributed to the differences.
Ms G Tseke was also concerned with this issue.
Ms Memela reported that the Western Cape Network was a provincial organisation, but it worked with all the structures, both national and international. Its service focused on the Western Cape but it linked with other structures doing the same work and coordinated Shelter Focus groups. From the successes of that last year a National Shelter Movement was launched that gave support to all the shelters nationally. As a recognised structure, it did receive support from government. That group had been working around issues of women in the shelters, including what happened to women when they left the shelter. They also worked with the Department of Housing to try to get agreement on perhaps allocating a certain percentage of housing for a special group, which currently they did not.
There was a national network that was set up from the Western Cape Network, and was the first network of its kind, but was not a service provider. The Western Cape Network coordinated service provision and brought the service providers together to support each other, to speak with one media voice, share resources, share information and work together. The National Network was set up later in the other eight provinces, but collapsed about three years ago, as a result of the conflict between trying to offer counselling services as well, and only the KwaZulu Natal Network was still operating, with whom the Western Cape Network was in partnership.
Western Cape network was struggling financially, and had to let staff go between April 2008 and January 2009. However, the new programme had allowed it to get back to capacity and employ staff with the held of resources from the USA under the provincial programme. It was hopefully of getting local support as well as some from the DSD, although the latter did not support salaries, only programmes.
Ms Madlala pointed out that some women might suffer abuse for several years, and end up by killing the abuser, in which case she would be sentenced to a jail term. She wondered if the abusive situation was not taken into account during the sentencing.
Ms Memela said that bail was a big challenge. Another challenge was the issue of bail and sentencing for women offenders who had killed their abusive partners. The current system seemed to be more lenient to male perpetrators of violence against women. Women killing their partners received higher sentences in South Africa than males who killed their partners. The reason was that normally women did not kill their partners as a result of a spontaneous fight, but the murder tended to be premeditated. During 2000 there was a campaign where the Network asked the President to pardon women who had killed their partners after years of enduring battered woman syndrome. Some had been abused for upwards of twenty years, and when they did kill their partners, they had reached a stage where they did not think they had any other alternative. The Network tried to intervene before women got to that stage.
Ms Madlala pointed out that recently Parliament passed the Older Persons Bill, which was very important to address issues of, especially, older women being abused by their grandchildren, especially with regard to social grant money. She asked if the Network was doing any education in the community on the implementation.
Ms Memela said that when the Network did the training provided by Social Development it included the issue of the elderly people, who were also included in the Violence Against Women programme.
Ms P Petersen-Maduna (ANC) felt the point about shared residence was a very good one, especially that the perpetrator was required to move out, but pointed out that the victim would often remain in need of protection.
Ms Malgas referred to the challenges set out in the document, and said that the Committee could do a lot in terms of raising questions for reply in Parliament and lobbying the Minister, as well as oversight. She asked for clarification on monitoring the work of the justice sector, and said that this Committee could not monitor the work done by the Justice Portfolio Committee.
Ms Memela clarified that she had meant that this Committee could ensure that the Department of Justice did what it said it would do in terms of support.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Memela and said she wished they could extend their function to issues such as teenage pregnancy.
She noted that this Committee could invite the DOJ to study the work of the Network and perhaps work with it. She noted that the Committee would also want to establish a relationship with the Network.
A Member suggested that this be part of the Committee's oversight role.
Ms Robinson said that she was happy to hear of the One Stop Centres because there was a dire need to have everyone sensitized to the issues. She believed that more training was needed also for magistrates and prosecutors.
The meeting was adjourned.
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.