Public Hearings on the 11-year Implementation of the Domestic Violence Act

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

28 October 2009
Chairperson: Ms B Thompson, Ms B Mabe & Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Domestic Violence Act was promulgated in 1998.  On the second day of public hearings into the implementation of the Act, the Portfolio and Select Committees heard oral submissions from the Legal Resource Centre, People Opposing Women Abuse, Professor A Gevers of the University of Cape Town, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Projects Abroad Human Rights Office, Mosaic, the Gender Advocacy Programme, the Saartjie Baartman Centre, REACH, the Cape Law Society, the Women’s Legal Centre and Thoyando Victim Empowerment.  Ms Claudine Dyck (a volunteer with REACH) and Ms J Govender (a disabled victim) shared their personal experiences with domestic violence with the Members.  The submissions made by minor children were heard in camera.

The joint submission from the Legal Resource Centre and People Opposing Women Abuse focused on the responsibility of the State to ensure that the rights of abused women and children were protected, that sufficient resources were made available for the implementation of legislation, that punitive measures were taken against agents of the State who failed to carry out their duties and that the rights of perpetrators did not precede the rights of abused persons.  Challenges highlighted included that the guidelines for magistrates were not adhered to, that the National Instructions of the South African Police Services (SAPS) were not adhered to and that insufficient funding was provided to Government Departments and civil society organisations for the provision of support services to abused women such as shelters, psycho-social and legal services.

Members asked questions about the sources of funding, the facilities available at shelters and the experience and knowledge gained in other countries in dealing with domestic violence.

Professor A Gevers of the University of Cape Town reported on the results of research done on gender-based violence and the mental health of adolescents and children who were exposed to domestic violence.  Prof Gevers reported on the primary intervention and prevention programmes initiated at schools in Cape Town, which were aimed at the youth in an attempt to break the generational cycle of domestic violence.

The questions asked by Members concerned suggested legislative changes, the level of interaction with the youth, the facilities available at shelters to accommodate children, the monitoring of the exposure of children to media violence, the violent behaviour and abuse perpetrated by children and the link between domestic violence and alcohol and drug abuse.

The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation presented a précis of the nature of domestic violence and the role of the police in implementing the Domestic Violence Act.  The Centre was critical of the failure of the police to carry out the duties and responsibilities in terms of the Act.  Guidelines for police officers were lacking and unclear and the pressure on the police to reduce crime statistics resulted in the failure to accurately record incidents of domestic violence.  The Centre recommended that a specialised unit to deal with domestic violence complaints was established by SAPS, that police officers were provided with adequate and continuous training and that SAPS reported to Parliament on the implementation of the Act on a regular basis.

Members asked questions about the action that should be taken when police officers failed to carry out their duties, the mediation role of police officers, the involvement of other professional persons in dealing with domestic violence cases, the involvement of various Government Departments and the involvement of Community Policing Forums.

The Projects Abroad Human Rights Office submission dealt with the education of people on their rights.  The organisation was critical of the role played by SAPS and the lack of cohesion between the Government Departments involved in curbing domestic violence.  Recommendations included the training of service providers, the amendment of the Act to correct the ambiguity concerning warrants of arrest, amendments to the guidelines for magistrates and the establishment of a single coordinating body to implement a cohesive programme to combat domestic violence.

Members asked who should be responsible for the training of service providers, who should receive training, whether the legislation dealing with bail conditions needed to be amended, which aspects of the Act was beneficial, the need to determine the causes of domestic violence and the difference in sensitivity between male and female police officers.

Mosaic was based at courts dealing with domestic violence cases and provided healing and training services to abused women.  The submission included statistical data on the different types of abuse.  The organisation reported that the Act omitted provisions to cater for the psycho-social support for victims and that there was no framework in place to link the Act with the Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP).  Mosaic investigated the reasons why almost 50% of abused women failed to return to court to obtain final protection orders against their abusers and the results obtained differed substantially from the statistics reported by SAPS.  The submission dealt with the effects of domestic violence on the mental health of women and the link with HIV/Aids. Challenges highlighted included the lack of psychologists and trained counsellors and health workers.

The Gender Advocacy Programme focused on the challenges with the Victim Empowerment Programme.  The submission included an explanation of the rationale and objectives of VEP.  The challenges included the fact that many women were unaware of their rights, the unacceptable treatment of abused women by members of SAPS, the denial of their rights and access to support services, the lack of monitoring of VEP and the omission of shelters from the grant application system.

The Saartjie Baartman Centre provided support services to survivors of domestic violence and managed two shelters in the Western Cape.  The Centre had formed partnerships with nine other non-governmental organisations to enhance the range of services that are available to abused women.  The Centre stated unequivocally that the Act had failed to protect women, as evidenced by a 114% increase in the number of cases over the previous year.  A major concern was that NGO’s and other civil society organisations received very little financial and other support from Government.  Survivors of domestic abuse needed economic empowerment programmes to assist them with building new lives and other support services, for example health services and legal assistance.

Members recognised the role played by society in tackling domestic violence and the need to determine what the problems were with the implementation of domestic violence legislation.

REACH represented abused women from rural and farming communities in the Western Cape and stressed the importance of cooperation between Government and civil society in addressing domestic violence.

Ms Claudine Dyck recounted her own horrific personal experiences, which illustrated that interdicts and restraining orders failed to protect women from abuse.  Ms Dyck had dedicated herself to helping other victims of abuse but lacked the financial resources to make a more meaningful impact.

The submission from the Cape Law Society highlighted the lack of adequate training of SAPS officers and other officials responsible for service delivery.  The failure by the persons responsible to carry out their duties as required by the Act allowed the abuse of women and children to continue.  In addition, magistrates were not implementing the Act properly and complicated matters when handing down court orders that fell outside the ambit of the Act.  The court system was clogged, the court schedule and systems resulted in unacceptable delays in the handling of domestic violence cases and the court clerks responsible for handling domestic violence complainants were inadequately trained.

Ms J Govender presented her own personal experiences as a disabled victim of domestic abuse.  Her submission highlighted the untenable position of disabled victims, who had neither the financial nor physical resources to seek help and to escape from their situation.

The Women’s Legal Centre submission focused on the failure of the court system and the police service to implement the provisions of the Act.  Victims of domestic violence were often subjected to secondary victimisation by insensitive court officials and police officers.  The police often failed to inform victims of their rights and the inability to access legal representation resulted in many victims not being able to present a proper case to the court.  The Centre recommended that the powers of magistrates were extended in order for magistrates to subpoena witnesses and to issue court orders to SAPS to investigate complaints of domestic violence.  The Centre recommended that SAPS officers who failed to carry out their duties were held accountable.  The provision in the Act allowing SAPS to arrest a perpetrator without a warrant if there was imminent harm needed to be clarified and any phrasing allowing discretion needed to be removed.  Corresponding amendments to the Police Act might be required.

The submission from Thoyando Victim Empowerment (TVE) held that the necessary structures were in place to implement the Act but required strengthening.  Case studies were recounted that illustrated where the weaknesses were in the Victim Empowerment Programme, the courts and the SAPS.  TVE attempted to hold police officers, volunteers at the Victim Empowerment Centres and prosecutors accountable for failures to carry out their duties and had suffered victimisation and threats in retaliation.  TVE recommended that the volunteers providing counselling services at VEP centres received more training and that adequate funding was made available for the Programme.  TVE felt that the Department of Social Development was not the correct Department to be held responsible for the VEP and that the mandate of the VEP should be reviewed.

Meeting report

Oral and Written Submissions on the Implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, No. 116 of 1998
Ms Thompson said that the Committee’s summary was done during the public hearings held on the previous day, Wednesday, 28th October 2009 and would not be repeated. The Committee looked forward to hearing the submissions from the parties represented and made the promise that something would be done about the issues that were raised.  She suggested that the presentations by the organisations represented were submitted in a spirit of hope rather than one of negativity.

Submission by the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) and People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA)
Ms W Isaack represented the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) and People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA). The organisations submitted a joint submission.  POWA and the LRC provided legal and litigation services, which advanced women’s rights. The Constitution established the legal responsibility and duty of the State to respect, protect, promote and fulfil all the rights of citizens in the Bill of Rights. In 1995, South Africa signed and ratified the SIDA Convention to end all forms of discrimination against women and ratified the optional protocol to SIDA in 2005. Further to these commitments, Parliament passed the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) in 1998. Parliament was commended for the enactment of the DVA.  She said that the legislation had the potential to protect women and children from domestic abuse if it was effectively implemented. However, despite the adoption of the Act, the adoption of the South African Police Services National Instructions in 1999 and the issuing of the 2008 guidelines to assist magistrates in adjudicating cases of domestic violence, domestic violence continued unabated and the perpetrators enjoyed widespread impunity.

It was an established principle of international law that the State was legally accountable for breaches of international obligations under customary or treaty law, which forced the exercise of due diligence that prevented, controlled, corrected or disciplined private acts of violence through its executive legislative or judicial organs. The ground-breaking general recommendation of violence against women explicitly recognised that violence against women was a form of discrimination that seriously inhibited women’s ability to enjoy their rights and freedom on the basis of equality with men and that family violence was one of the most insidious forms of violence against women. Due diligence required that the State not only enacted legislation that punished perpetrators of domestic violence but that the State additionally adopted a policy to prevent violations by engaging in societal transformation and by addressing systemic forms of domination and the oppression of women in society. The State had a duty to transform the patriarchal, male-gendered structures and values that sustained gender inequality and entrenched violence against women.

The submission intended to bring to the attention of the Committee the various challenges and obstacles which hindered the effective implementation of the Act, and to make specific recommendations that would strengthen the existing legislative and policy framework for the benefit of abused women and children. The submission addressed two major interrelated concerns. Firstly, the implementation challenges within the civil and criminal justice system. The effective implementation and enforcement of the law was central to ensuring that all survivors, particularly women and children, enjoyed all their constitutionally protected rights. Secondly, Government needed to demonstrate political will by allocating sufficient resources that ensured an effective response to domestic violence. Facilitating the arrest, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators would be a clear demonstration of political will, and backed by a commitment of resources by the State, was the most effective response to violence against women.

Specific recommendations were highlighted. Firstly, Government was urged to speak out urgently and forcefully of the need to end violence against women, particularly domestic violence, to ensure public accountability for all instances of violence. Secondly, funding should be provided or the current funding available should be increased to ensure that adequate services were provided, which included shelters for abused women and children and access to justice and redress for survivors. Thirdly, Government should take measures to ensure that punitive or disciplinary action was taken against agents of the State who committed acts of domestic violence and who did not prevent violence against women, by remonstrating, prosecuting and punishing these persons and by providing remedies that redressed victims. The relevant agents of State should be urged to give due consideration to the safety of women when adjudicating cases of violence against women and children.  It was emphasised that the rights of perpetrators should not precede women’s human rights to life and women’s rights to physical and mental integrity. Perpetrators’ rights included the right to continue occupying the common household because the person was a part-owner of the house.

A number of problematic trends were identified. Firstly, the 2008 guidelines for magistrates in various sections of the Act clearly set out the considerations that judicial officers had to bear in mind when granting or refusing interim protection orders. However, in practice the legislation and guidelines were not adhered to and in numerous jurisdictions complainants reported secondary victimisation in family courts. Instead of being granted an interim protection order when they applied for one, they were often turned away or issued with a notice to show course even though the matter was urgent and life-threatening. Magistrates were often reluctant to grant orders that evicted perpetrators from the common household or that extended monetary relief to complainants despite the overwhelming evidence presented in the application. In numerous cases, magistrates postponed the cases and requested that the parties obtained legal representation, which frustrated the complainant, as many could not afford legal representation. Perpetrators used such rulings to delay proceedings, which resulted in the abuse of the legal process and perpetuated the cycle of abuse that was initially the cause of the complaint. The Act made provision for complainants to have access to a court at any time, but the reality was that most family courts only heard domestic violence cases during court hours, resulting in complainants not receiving the immediate assistance that was often required. There was no independent party that took into consideration the interest of minors during domestic violence proceedings.

Magistrates should be urged to adhere to the 2008 guidelines on domestic violence matters because all the considerations when adjudicating such cases were taken into account and were clearly set out. Many of the problems arising from adjudicating domestic violence cases in South Africa were due to an un-coordinated judicial system and it was recommended that South Africa developed a specialised or integrated court system to deal with domestic violence matters.  Firstly, by increasing the specialisation of domestic violence courts and moving towards the integration of the criminal and civil aspects of domestic violence. Secondly, by looking at best practice models in other jurisdictions in order to draw on their experience and to develop a system that worked for South Africa. When there was a violation of the protection order, the criminal court did not take into account that there was an existing protection order against the perpetrator and therefore the history of abuse was not brought into the fore. The criminal and civil aspects of domestic violence should be separated.

There were a number of challenges related to the SAPS National Instructions, which together with the Act set out very clear legal duties that the police had to abide by. Numerous inconsistencies and contraventions of law and policy had been noted. There was a routine failure to investigate telephonic complaints due to vehicle shortages and a failure to arrest perpetrators without a warrant where domestic violence was taking place. Reports were received from complainants but the SAPS failed to assist with the service of the court process. There was a routine failure to keep domestic violence records and to advise complainants of their rights to lay criminal charges and to seek legal redress in terms of the Act. These issues demonstrated a general dereliction of duty by the members of SAPS in certain jurisdictions, in cases of domestic violence.

The second part of the submission dealt with the allocation of adequate resources. The national crime prevention strategy of 1996 established crimes against women and children as a national priority and to give full effect to the provisions of the Act, the Government had to allocate budgets that necessitated effective implementation. POWA’s and the LRC’s constituencies were predominantly unskilled and under-resourced black women who did not only require shelter from perpetrators but needed to be empowered to break the cycle of abuse and to end their financial dependence on male perpetrators of violence. POWA operated two shelters for abused women and children in the Gauteng area and employed qualified social workers and auxiliary social workers to provide psycho-social support for these women. The financial resources received from the Department of Social Development (DSD) were wholly inadequate to provide the urgent and necessary support to women and children affected by domestic violence. The funding from the DSD made provision for salaries of R105 000 per annum for a social worker, R96 000 per annum for an auxiliary social worker and R25 per day per abused woman in the shelter. There was no funding for children that abused women might bring to the shelter with them and none at all for skills development while they were at the shelter. POWA did not receive funding for operational costs or for the costs of programmes, such as facilitating support groups for abused women. The State’s allocation of adequate resources and funding was the most significant policy tool of Government to respond to violence against women.

The current socio-economic position of women in the country did not enable women to break free from violence in their homes without the assistance of civil society organisations and without the assistance and allocation of adequate resources from Government. Within Government agencies there was insufficient funding to enable State agencies to respond effectively to domestic violence. The Department of Justice (DOJ) often complained of the insufficient numbers of clerks in the different courts, which resulted in women often being turned away because there were no clerks available to assist them with the applications for protection orders. The SAPS complained of the lack of vehicles to serve protection orders and to respond to incidences of domestic violence. The two significant recommendations were that Government was urged to address under-resourcing and low prioritisation within implementing agencies and that the DSD ’s policy on financial awards was reviewed. The review process had to be conducted in consultation with Non Governmental Organisations (NGO’s), which provided shelters and psycho-social services to abused women and their children.

The submissions from POWA and the LRC focused on the key challenges in implementing the Act and examined the civil and criminal justice system, evaluated the adequate allocation of resources and funding and identified the shortcomings in Government’s response to domestic violence. There was still much work to be done to ensure that Government responded to violence against women, particularly domestic violence and part of the response had to be the allocation of adequate resources for shelters, psycho-social services, legal services and for the DOJ to extend legal aid to abused women in particular. More needed to be done to ensure that Government met its Constitutional international law obligations and responded and acted with due diligence.

The Chairperson commented that the presentation was very clear and came straight to the point. The issues raised were that perpetrators’ rights should not take the place of the victims’ rights, that cases were postponed and prolonged, that there was no sense of urgency and that specialised courts were needed. Additional issues of concern were best practices, telephonic complaints not being handled appropriately and under-prioritisation. The Committee agreed with all the issues raised and the under-resourcing of implementing the legislation was a major concern.

Ms D Ramodibe (ANC) said that the presentation indicated that the funding received did not cover the operational costs of POWA and the LRC. She asked where the funding for operational costs was obtained.

Ms P Petersen-Maduna (ANC) stressed that the issue about the shared residence was a very serious matter.  She felt that the perpetrator had to move out of the residence because the victim should be protected. However, the perpetrator might return and there could be a murder committed before the case went to court. She asked if POWA’s shelters catered for people with disabilities.

Mr D Kekana (ANC) asked if the LRC had looked into the experiences of other countries and if those countries were doing better than South Africa in implementing legislation and addressing domestic violence.

The Chairperson emphasised that there was a perception that the Act was created mainly for women but it was not the case.  Men subjected to domestic violence generally did not come forward to share their suffering and held onto their dignity. The Committee found it difficult to get males to appear at the hearings and men were not brave enough to share their stories. There were men that were physically and emotionally abused but they realised that when a man reported incidences of domestic violence at police stations, it became a huge joke for their male counterparts in the police force. The issue needed to be addressed as some men were suffering too and needed to be loved as much as women. She said that women should not be biased against men.

Ms Isaack advised that a 2006 report issued by the Secretary General of the United Nations had considered the responses of member states and all the other countries in the world and had found that no country invested sufficient resources to respond effectively to violence against women. Moreover, no country had met the requirements of the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Promising practices could probably be drawn from other jurisdictions and in an international context the most relevant one to South Africa was a decision handed down by the SIDA Committee against Austria. Austria’s model of domestic violence was very similar to South Africa’s model because of the mechanisms put in place, such as legislation, the provision of shelter and the funding of shelters. What could be of particular interest to South Africa was that civil society organisations in Austria took the Government of Austria to the SIDA Committee to clarify the issue. The SIDA Committee subsequently clarified that the rights of victims should not be subordinated to the rights of the perpetrator. Interesting developments were taking place in international law and certain practices relating to domestic violence could be adopted. The European court recently handed down a decision against Turkey for not protecting a woman from a perpetrator and cost orders had been issued against other Governments for the same reason as well.

Ms Isaack said that POWA’s premises were designed so that everybody (including people in wheelchairs) could access the premises. POWA was funded by the DSD for its psycho-social and shelter work and by independent donors.  Since 1984, the organisation had been very creative in keeping the shelter running. Private donors did not fund shelters nor did they provide funding to cover core costs and in the absence of appropriate funding from Government it was very difficult to initiate empowering skills for the women at the shelter, with the result that the women remained unemployed and financially dependent.

The Chairperson emphasised that the Act referred to shelters that had to house victims but Government did not provide adequate funding for these shelters.  The situation was contradictory and should be criticised.

Submission by Professor A Gevers of the University of Cape Town
Prof Gevers
explained that she was a trained clinical psychologist and specialised in women and gender studies and child and adolescent mental health. Her clinical work was done in the clinics that offered comprehensive and multi-disciplinary investigation, advocacy and treatment services to child and adolescent trauma survivors and non offending family members. She was part of a team that was working to develop a school-based programme that prevented intimate partner violence and promoted healthy relationships among young adolescents. However, the DVA did not provide a strong enough framework to assist in meeting the goal because there were no provision clauses preventing domestic violence. Targeting children and adolescents for prevention services was particularly important, not only because of the negative impact of domestic violence on the group but also because healthy non-violent norms should be established at a very early age.

Different research on children and adolescents who were exposed to domestic violence found that there was a very high likelihood that they too would be abused or maltreated in their adult homes. Witnessing domestic violence itself could be considered traumatic and the children usually experienced physical and mental health problems as a result of this trauma, including post-traumatic stress symptoms, such as mood disturbances and behavioural problems. Domestic violence could disrupt the psychological, physical and social development of children and adolescents and of concern was the fact that they were learning an unhealthy model of relationships and became more likely to perpetrate violence and or be victimised in their own relationships, which perpetuated a cycle of violence across several generations. If accepted and appropriate comprehensive psycho-social medical and welfare services were offered to the affected youth and their caregivers, it could contribute to preventing the recurrence of domestic violence in their lives. However, international research had shown that these services were unlikely to prevent domestic violence at a societal level and there was little evidence suggesting that it contributed to reduced levels of domestic violence in society in the longer term and that it helped to create a healthy society for all.

The Act supported post-violence efforts but these alone would not eliminate domestic violence in the country. Therefore, domestic violence should be prevented from occurring in the first instance, by implementing programmes that promoted healthy relationships among the youth. Those efforts aimed at minimising the number of people who perpetrated and who were victimised by domestic violence were called primary prevention programmes. Firstly, it was important to intervene as early as possible by targeting programmes at children and adolescents and those persons who were influential in their lives, such as parents and other care givers. Schools and youth groups were most likely to have a lasting and meaningful impact on society in ways that would not only rid society of domestic violence but also contribute to creating a healthy and vibrant environment for all. Prevention programmes for the youth would help to establish healthier relationship norms. Secondly, programmes should address the underlying factors and international and local researchers have found that domestic violence was more likely to occur in societies where the use of violence was normative, particularly when violence was frequently witnessed during childhood.

Another risk factor was when gender inequality was manifested in women, who had relatively less power than men in a variety of domains and where men had limited ways to express their male identity and felt that women should be under their control and should be punished if they transgressed gender norms. Alcohol abuse tended to exacerbate domestic violence and was an issue prevalent in South Africa. These underlying factors needed to be targeted with primary prevention programmes and as domestic violence was found in all groups of society, it was important that all groups of men, women, boys and girls were engaged in prevention efforts. In interviews conducted with adolescents to inform work being done at UCT, intimate relationships were discussed. Two issues arose that were relevant to the discussion. First of all, experiences of violence in relationships were prevalent among adolescents and local researchers had found that almost half of adolescents in South Africa reported experiencing different forms of violence in their intimate relationships. Secondly, those adolescents indicated their desire for programmes to help them with relationship issues, particularly one that would build their inter-personal skills so that they would know how to build a healthy relationship. There were limited resources available for investing in primary prevention programmes but it was very important that these programmes were evidence-based and were developed or tested locally so that what was being done would be effective.  The programmes should be continuously monitored and evaluated and revised if necessary. Unfortunately, there were relatively few evidence-based programmes for the youth that focused on preventing partner-violence but the good news was that more such programmes were being developed. A team at the Gender and Health Research unit had developed and tested the Stepping Stones programme with youth and found that it was particularly successful in engaging men and facilitating a positive change in their behaviour, including a decrease in violent behaviour. She was working with a team that was developing an intervention that could be integrated into the life-orientation curriculum for grade eight learners. Such interventions had to be scaled up and prevention interventions should be coordinated to offer consistent information, messages, skills and services to all groups in society. Successful prevention would require collaboration between Government Departments and between Government and civil society organisations to effectively address domestic violence in society.

If the State was committed to eliminating domestic violence from society, then it was imperative that provisions were built in for primary prevention in the Act and implemented in an effective and sustainable manner. It was useful to conceptualise responses to and services for domestic violence along a continuum stretching from primary prevention with all groups, targeted prevention across groups and post-violence secondary prevention for victim survivors and perpetrators. The link between HIV/Aids and intimate partner violence provided more impetus to the requirement that the prevention of domestic violence was a matter of great importance and great urgency. She hoped that the hearings were just the beginning of an ongoing dialogue and that action would be taken to address the issue and to incorporate prevention on the national agenda.

The Chairperson said that the Members welcomed all the ideas from the presenters, especially concerning prevention.  She asked for input on the legislative changes that would be necessary and on the DVA.

Prof Gevers replied that little attention was currently given to primary prevention and the first step could be that provision was made for resources to be allocated to prevention programmes to prevent domestic violence from occurring in the first place. Secondary prevention was important as well.  One way of dealing with the burden placed on the secondary prevention and protection services was to minimise the number of people that needed those services.

The Chairperson agreed that targeting the youth for primary prevention programmes was more effective as it was more difficult to influence older people.

Mr Kekana said that the problem with domestic violence was not only criminal behaviour on the part of the perpetrators but was also a matter of culture. Some people came from a culture where violence was an acceptable tool to be applied for corrective measures. In the patriarchal society, wives were on a par with children and if a wife went astray, “you could take a little stick and give her a little hiding and there was no divorce, because you were allowed to correct her”. It was very difficult to convince the older generation who still believed that things were going wrong because children no longer received corporal punishment at school. Children had rights and one could not use a stick on them but the elders believed that if you spared the rod, you spoiled the child. He said that psychological punishment at school and in the home must be abandoned entirely.

Ms Ramodibe asked what interaction took place with the youth and with children, at which level was ideas contributed and in which areas was an impact made.

Ms Petersen-Maduna commented that it was good that programmes were being designed specifically for the youth to build relationship skills. She asked if any contribution was made concerning persons with disabilities.

Ms H Malgas (ANC) noted that certain empowerment centres were adolescent-friendly but could not always accommodate all the children in need.  She asked what lessons were learned from international research.

Prof Gevers responded that the use of violence or corporal punishment for corrective purposes was extremely problematic because children and the youth were taught that it was okay to sometimes use violence. There were other effective and positive ways, based on positive reinforcement, to change behaviour or to punish and correct the behaviour of children in schools and at home. In that way, the positive aspects were built up and it could be helpful to build the skills of the people that worked with the youth in this respect. Although the presentation focused on primary prevention, secondary prevention could be helpful and the resilience of children and adolescents should not be discounted. It was not a foregone conclusion that if children experienced domestic violence became perpetrators of violence but there was a greater risk of this happening. She was working at schools in Cape Town to test the intervention programme in order to determine if it was successful.

Ms Ramodibe asked if the intervention programme would be extended to other provinces.

Prof Gevers replied that the programme was currently being tested and hoped that it would be adopted by other provinces.

Ms Ramodibe noted that one of the presentations recommended that children were monitored when watching television and asked if research was being done on this aspect as well.

Prof Gevers responded that the monitoring of children and their activities in general was really important.  In addition to the watching of television, the exposure of children to the internet and other electronic media should be monitored. Research supported the protective effect of parental monitoring on the behaviour of children and adolescents in schools and at home. If the television programming offered inappropriate material, the matter should be taken up with the decision-makers who decided which programmes were broadcast. The intervention programme was offered on a non-discriminatory basis and she hoped that it would be made available to all.  The programme was school-based and depended on the youth being at school but had the potential to be implemented in other areas as well.

Ms Petersen-Maduna asked how children suffering from cerebral palsy were dealt with.

Prof Gevers replied that there were two approaches dealing with relationship issues in the programme but other programmes could be developed to deal with particular issues. It would require special education teachers or service providers that worked with the youth with special needs in order to adapt the programme. Manuals were available that could be used to adapt the programme to a specific group and the programme included a number of interactive exercises. The programme was widely applicable and was not limited to intimate relationships.  Children were taught a wide range of relationship skills. Peer group relationships taught children to be more respectful towards others.  The programme could easily be extended to include people with disabilities in the community. Research was undertaken internationally but most of it was focused on secondary prevention.  Some work was being done on primary prevention involving adults and children in different settings. A review of the research literature was available, which would be helpful to learn from and the findings could be adapted to the local situation and cultural issues.

Ms P Lebenya (IFP) remarked that young people were influenced by their peers.  Even if there was no violence or drug abuse at home, these adolescents came home and abused their parents. She asked if there was a link between young people who abused drugs and violence amongst family members.  She asked how parents could be protected against violent children because domestic violence was a broad issue and was not limited to violence against women. She asked if the pilot programme in Cape Town had produced any results.

Prof Gevers replied that drug abuse was a major problem in its own right and the impact on domestic and societal violence was significant. The programme did not focus specifically on the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse but it did integrate issues around drugs and alcohol in relationships. There were prevention programmes on drug and alcohol abuse and one such programme was being piloted in Kwa-Zulu Natal as part of a HIV and alcohol abuse prevention study in schools. Such programmes were multi-faceted and the comprehensive integration of all prevention programmes should be looked at.

Mr Kekana commented that people were naturally surrounded by much violence.  For example, lambs and chickens were slaughtered to be eaten and that was using violence in a positive way. In Johannesburg, abattoirs slaughtered 15 000 sheep and 10 000 cattle per day to supply the market. People were surrounded by violence and he did not know if a society without violence could be managed because our own survival depended on that. The best of human beings were also violent at times. He asked for comment on whether or not one could ever gain control over and avoid violence to become a better society.

Prof Gevers responded that the issue was not only the avoidance of violence but was also about creating healthy norms in society. Violence was pervasive in our society and it was a societal problem that would require the entire society to come on board in order to deal with the problem. If eating meat and giving birth was included in his inclusion of problematic violence, there were some uses of violence that could not be avoided. She would never give up hope that people could live in a generally non-violent society and if that began with non-violence within human interaction then she thought that was a fantastic beginning.

Dr H Mateme (Limpopo Legislature) asked what the role of the family was as nurturing and molding should first take place in the family. It appeared as if there were institutionalisation of almost everything and he wondered what role was played by the family in the model.

Prof Gevers emphasised that the family played a central role in addressing the influence of violence in society and had a lot of influence over the youth. Parenting was often an incredibly difficult task that people had to face and perhaps more should be done to support families and parents in developing their parenting style. If children were taught at school about having respect for others and how to build healthy relationships but were exposed to relationships that were characterised by disrespect at home, then the desired changes would not be seen. It was essential to engage families and parents when working with the youth.

The Chairperson thanked Prof Gevers for her input and said that the Committee was honoured to hear of the contribution that she was making.

Submission by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)
Ms A Pino Davis mentioned that the CSVR had recently hosted a conference on the implementation of the DVA and copies of the conference report would be made available to the Committee.

The purpose of the DVA was to afford victims of domestic violence the maximum protection from domestic abuse that the law could provide. Domestic violence consisted of physical abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property, entry into the complainant’s residence without consent (where the parties do not share the same residence), or any other controlling or abusive behaviour towards a complainant, where such conduct harmed, or could cause imminent harm to, the safety, health or wellbeing of the complainant. Domestic relationships included civil and customary marriage partners or former marriage partners, current or former cohabiting partners, the parents of a child or people who have had parental authority for that child, family members, engaged, dating or customary relationships, sexual relationships of any duration and people who shared the same residence and gender-neutral and same-sex relationships.

The submission from the CSVR focused on the role of the police in the implementation of the DVA and was illustrated with actual cases involving domestic violence. In 2007, police refused to enforce a protection order when a woman tearfully begged the police to rescue her from her ex-husband, who was also a child-sex abuser and mental patient, but the police accused her of being drunk. The three officers refused to arrest the HIV-positive former husband, despite the protection order the woman had obtained against him and the man, in a drunken rage, then raped her. The woman sued the SAPS and won the case.  In handing down his verdict, the judge was scathing in his condemnation of the police. The case illustrated the reality of domestic violence in the country and highlighted how the police implemented the Act. The police was the key factor in the enforcement of legislation. The domestic violence problem should be looked at more holistically and, in particular, the implementation of the DVA where the major emphasis was on the role of the SAPS.

The duties of the police were to assist and inform the complainant of his or her rights and, at a domestic violence scene, to render whatever assistance was necessary; to serve the protection order with a warrant for arrest on the respondent and to arrest the respondent if there was reason to suspect that the complainant could suffer imminent harm as a result of a breached protection order and to
remove any firearms from the respondent if there was a belief that the firearm could be used to kill or harm the complainant. Domestic violence incidents reported to a police station should be recorded in the Domestic Violence Register and it was the responsibility of the Station Commander to ensure that an accurate record of reported incidents was kept. Police should document the response to any complaint or the reason for not taking action. The SAPS and Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) were obliged to report on the SAPS compliance with the DVA once every 6 months to the Portfolio Committee on Police.

There were currently problems and implications with the performance of the aforementioned duties. There were inadequate and inefficient police responses to domestic violence as a result of both institutional problems and individual views on domestic violence. There was a lack of human, material and financial resources to implement the DVA properly. Police dockets did not identify the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator and the case was not prosecuted as a case of domestic violence. The violation of a protection order was charged as such but without reciprocal criminal charges and the prosecution of the accused was downgraded to a lesser crime. The safety dimensions behind the DVA were not fully understood and no risk assessment was conducted by the police, for example the need for the removal of a firearm. The discretion of a police officer on whether or not to arrest the respondent and the guidelines for arresting officers were unclear and arrests were seldom effected. There were allegations that police stations had issued guidelines that an arrest could be made only when police officers were witnessing violence actually taking place.

The challenges of implementation included the pressure on the police to reduce crime statistics and the discouragement of reporting cases by the police.  Complainants were sent directly to court for protection orders or were referred for counselling. The police officers acted as mediators or counsellors to deflect cases or attempted for the matter to be dealt with at the family level. There was a failure to register cases of domestic violence at police stations, which limited the understanding of the extent of the problem. There were patriarchal views among some police officials and the victims of domestic violence were denied efficient service. There was a dislike by the police of serving protection orders, difficulties in locating respondents and also because of a lack of sufficient resources. In most police stations the serving of protection orders was not considered a priority and domestic violence was only considered to be serious when physical violence was involved. Cases of domestic violence involving serious or violent crime only were investigated. There were high levels of domestic violence within the police service itself and there was reluctance by police officers to interfere in what was seen as “family squabbles”. Domestic violence was not seen as a crime in the minds of many people. Police failed to recognise the danger that was faced by victims and failed to take steps to protect them. There was a lack of access to the SAPS by vulnerable populations, e.g. gay and lesbian couples, migrants and refugees. Recent CSRV research with migrant women in the country reported that the women were too scared to go to police stations to report violence that was suffered at the hands of their countrymen. The DVA did not adequately outline the responsibilities of other role players and this had a further negative impact on the SAPS’ ability to carry out its duties, for example, the lack of availability of services such as shelters for victims, where the police could send victims of domestic violence. There was poor oversight of the DVA and few reports were issued by the ICD and the SAPS to Parliament on domestic violence and on the implementation of the Act.

Recommendations made by the CSRV included that the police develop a five-year strategic plan for the effective policing of domestic violence, clear goals, timelines and targets for the effective implementation of the DVA and the allocation of the necessary funding. Norms and standards should be developed for training on domestic violence in the social context and additional capacity building, refresher training and the application of innovative methods were necessary. At times, public servants and police officers tired of repeated training and there was a need to introduce much more interesting ways to deal with the cases. For instance, a peer review of cases handled and interaction among the police officers on how cases were dealt with. Police officers needed to approach their work with professionalism and within legal and human rights frameworks. The response of the police should not be limited to the DVA and there should be more creative ways of dealing more effectively with the withdrawal of complaints or situations where victims did not wish to lay charges but protection was still required. Often, a woman did not want to send the offending husband or partner to prison as he was the only breadwinner, but the woman still needed protection.

A specialised unit within the SAPS to deal with domestic violence and sexual violence should be re-established with adequate resources. CSVR understood that the unit would be reinstated and welcomed the decision but suggested that the unit was appropriately resourced. Rather than trying to reduce crime statistics, police should be encouraged to record accurate statistics. The idea of recording domestic violence incidents should be taken up as members of SAPS were failing in their duties or were offering sub-standard service. Complaints should be lodged about the poor service delivery of police officers who dealt with domestic violence and the response should go beyond the criminal justice system. There was a 365 Days’ National Action Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children to ensure that trends could be properly analysed and acted upon. There should be enforced regulations that required police officials to record domestic violence incidents as well as the relationship between the parties. The powers of the ICD should be broadened to ensure that disciplinary action was taken against members of SAPS who failed in their duties in terms of the DVA or who were offering sub-standard service. The public should be made aware of complaint mechanisms for poor service form SAPS and a strategy should be implemented to tighten the managerial oversight over police officers.
The 365 Days’ National Action Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children focused on prevention but there were no resources or clear strategy in place. The primary prevention of domestic violence should be a long-term, community-specific and well resourced intervention, as there was a clear need for prevention. The CSVR believed that as a driver of national strategy to address domestic violence, there should be a new Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities. The Committee was requested to utilise its oversight powers and to call upon the relevant Government Departments and the Ministry to formulate concrete strategies to address domestic violence in a holistic and co-ordinated manner.

The Chairperson said that she was glad that the emphasis of the presentation was mainly on the role of the police as their major role in curbing domestic violence was to apprehend the perpetrator. Victims needed to understand that the protection order and the laying of a charge were two different things but what usually happened was that the police would merely issue a protection order without laying any charges against the perpetrator. She asked what should be done in a case where the police failed to carry out their duties. 

Ms B Mabe (ANC) asked for clarity on whether or not the CSVR recommended that police should not act as mediators or played any reconciliatory role as their duty was simply to implement the law.

Ms P Duncan (DA) requested further information on the other
professions and professionals involved in the implementation of the DVA. She remarked that police officers were often unclear on exactly what their duties and roles were. She felt that the Committee should consider all the sectors that were involved in curbing domestic violence instead of adding to the pressure on the police to take on more responsibility. She commented that there were a lot of expectations expressed in public hearings concerning the delivery from the police and other stakeholders. If the skills and efforts to deliver on the DVA were pooled, a greater impact would be made instead of increasing the levels of confusion. The police officers should be expected to carry out the duties that they were trained for.

Ms Pino Davis responded that the CSVR had also realised that too much should not be expected from the police and the assistance of the entire society was necessary to deal with domestic violence. However, the problem was that not everybody was clear on the role of the police. There was no clarity on what was supposed to be done by the police. Mediation was a very particular type of skill that could not be successfully done without proper training. The CSVR had found that the police often turned to mediation in order to avoid opening cases that were not considered to be proper cases, which was not the correct way of proceeding. The police was supposed to inform complainants of their rights, to explain the situation and to assess the risks but should not enter into mediation. In certain cases, the woman had a protection order and had explained the situation to the police but the officer concerned would insist that mediation had to take place.  In such cases, the police was not acting in the correct manner. The police should not be expected to or asked to mediate if the officer was not properly prepared or trained.

Ms Mabe asked if the CSVR was recommending that mediation skills should be provided to the police.

Ms Pino Davis replied that she was not in a position to make such a recommendation as the issue needed to be discussed with the relevant authorities.  She felt that the police could be more creative in the handling of domestic violence incidents but mediation should be undertaken by trained professionals, such as psychologists or social workers.

Ms Mabe observed that in certain cases, the police had to apply humanitarian skills and had to take action when the situation became emotional and complex.  On occasion, such intervention may prevent a person from having to go to court.

Ms Pino Davis replied that more creative ways in which police could act beyond the criminal and punitive aspects needed to be explored. She cautioned against expecting the police to play too great a role in mediation and counselling, which was a more long term intervention. Risk assessment was one possibility that could be considered.

The Chairperson said that it should be very clear to both the police and the victim that once a person arrived at a police station a degree of change should immediately be observable as there was trust and hope in the police.

Ms C Ditshetelo (UCDP) said that there was general consensus in South Africa that people did not get what they wanted when they went to police stations. She was pleased that the police were represented at the public hearings as there were always complaints from the public about the police. The problem could not be solved overnight but it could be minimised by conducting oversight over the level of service of police stations. The police came to meetings with the Committee but tended to tell Members what they thought the Members wanted to hear. Ten out of twelve women reporting incidents of domestic violence reported similar experiences and the police should be capable of providing assistance. She felt that it was time for the Committee to conduct oversight visits to police stations or to invite police station heads to appear before the Committee because they were responsible for dealing with the public in a satisfactory manner.

The Chairperson advised that the Committee would discuss the submissions after the public hearings before compiling a report and making recommendations.

Ms Malgas remarked that the Act had an inter-sectoral approach and other Departments were also involved. When she visited a Victim Empowerment Centre (VEC) at a police station in Port Elizabeth, the police did not know who the responsible Government Department was and thought that the Department of Social Development (DSD) was responsible for the centres. It was important to get all the Departments involved (such as the Department of Police (DOP), the DOJ, the DSD and the Department of Health (DOH)) together to fully discuss the submissions made during the public hearings.

The Chairperson advised liaison with the DSD had to take place on the issue of shelters in order to ensure that the needs of people for these shelters were understood. The involvement of the Department of Education (DOE) was required in respect of programmes. She agreed that the Committee needed to liaise with many Government Departments in order to ascertain that issues were dealt with and ideas were developed and tested before being implemented.

Mr Kekana remarked that the involvement of Community Policing Forums (CPF’s) was not mentioned in the presentation.  The CPF’s were established to implement the ideals of the community and to ensure that the expectations of communities were met by the police stations. The complaints about the police should be directed to the CPF’s in order to ensure that the members of the police did what was required of them and to support the police force in delivering the required level of service to the community. The Committee needed insight into the report on CPF’s and obtain feedback on how the CPF structures were faring.

Ms Pino Davis conceded that the role of CPF’s was not discussed.  She said that certain communities were not interested in participating in the CPF’s but in other areas the community was very active in the local CPF. She felt that CPF’s were politicised and used for other purposes in certain communities. The CSVR did not make use of the CPF’s as they were not effective in dealing with gender-based violence.

Ms Ramodibe supported the idea that all Government Departments involved should come together to discuss the issues that cut across the mandate of more than one Department.

Ms Lebenya said that the Committee should call in all the relevant Departments once the report on the public hearings was compiled as it was clear that the Act needed to be amended.  She suggested that the presenters present at the public hearings assisted with the amendments to the legislation. The successful aspects of the Act needed to be investigated as well. The efficacy of specialised SAPS units to which women could be directed to lodge complaints needed to be determined. She suggested that the Members of Parliament gathered information in their constituencies as well and that all the parties concerned worked together to ensure that the necessary changes were made.

The Chairperson emphasised that Members of Parliament did not have the necessary authority to ‘crack the whip’. In certain provinces, Members might observe police vehicles parked in places where they should not be, for example outside a shebeen. The excuse that there were an inadequate number of vehicles available was used when there was a need for a police vehicle to attend to a complaint made by a victim. Perhaps Members should have the authority to intervene in such cases but she was not sure if that would be possible. Civil society had a role to play in identifying the issues and the changes that were required.  The DVA did not specify the role of the Department of Health, which was a crucial issue as victims of domestic violence often needed medical care. The doctors or health practitioners attending the victims were not obliged to compile a report and the Act should be amended in this respect as well.

Submission by Projects Abroad Human Rights Office (PAHRO)
Ms A Chui presented the PAHRO submission to the Committee. She said that it was clear that domestic violence remained an important and prevalent issue in society, necessitating the current public hearings on the implementation of the DVA.  Many of the implementation challenges have been prevalent since the Act was promulgated and had not been effectively addressed in the previous ten years.

A part of PAHRO’s mandate was the education of people on their rights regarding domestic violence.  A panel discussion was organised for the Lavender Hill community for this purpose. Through the panel discussions and the case studies involving domestic violence, first-hand experience was obtained about the obstacles hindering the effective implementation of the DVA.  The obstacles included inconsistency of action by the SAPS and there were cases where there were lengthy delays between the times when a complaint of domestic abuse was laid and when the appropriate responsive action by Police had taken place. In many cases, the perpetrators were not arrested even though there was clear evidence for potential harm to the victim.

During a panel discussion, a woman from the Lavender Hill community claimed that in August 2009, a family member who had abused her daughter, had thrown a brick at her and had threatened her with a gun. She laid a complaint at SAPS but nothing was done because she lived on one side and the perpetrator lived on the other side of the police jurisdictional boundary. Both police stations concerned said that the offence had taken place outside their area of responsibility and refused to act on the complaint, despite the fact that the man had an unlicensed firearm. A court date was finally obtained in October 2009 but the perpetrator did not show up in court. To date, the perpetrator remained free and the unlicensed firearm had not been confiscated by SAPS.

There was inconsistency in the granting of protection orders and inconsistency amongst magistrates in determining whether a complainant qualified for a protection order. In many cases, women were not able to obtain protection orders because they did not have enough evidence to show cause.  This was a two-pronged problem - on the one hand, many victims did not know what evidence they needed to provide to show cause for protection and on the other hand, there was a lack of knowledge and training by magistrates and clerks on the implementation of the DVA.  The wording of the Act itself was unclear with regard to the execution of a warrant of arrest and the Act implied that it was up to the discretion of the police if there was enough evidence to execute the warrant of arrest. Lack of coherence and communication between the various Government Departments and service providers ultimately hampered the victim’s ability to access various services, such as counselling, shelter and information that could aid women in applying for a protection order and general protection from recurring acts of domestic violence.

In the light of these obstacles, PAHRO submitted recommendations that addressed these issues for consideration by the Committee and other relevant Government bodies. Training programmes for service providers should be revised and regularly updated, especially those programmes for the police and magistrate court clerks who regularly came into contact with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. Training courses should be made mandatory for employees of service providers and employees had to attend training on a regular basis rather than once-off training sessions. A less intimidating platform should be introduced and implemented for members of the community to file complaints against the inaction or delayed action of the SAPS when responding to complaints of domestic violence. Monitoring processes should be introduced to monitor response times and the actions of the SAPS concerning incidences of domestic violence. Members of SAPS should not perform or recommend any disciplinary action. Section 8 of the DVA should be amended to reduce confusion when a warrant for arrest had to be executed. Subsection 4(c) contradicted the aim of a warrant for arrest by implication through the use of the words “if” and “opinion” and stated that the decision on whether or not a warrant for arrest should be executed was at the discretion of the executor.
The guidelines in the implementation of the DVA for magistrates were aimed at assisting and guiding magistrates in implementing the DVA to ensure legal consistency and uniformity. On paper, the guidelines filled a gap in the training of magistrates but in reality, this was not the case. Research should be conducted to determine if further training in the DVA was required for magistrates, in particular for those magistrates who handled a lot of domestic violence cases. Alternatively, magistrates who were experienced in dealing with domestic violence cases or who were adequately trained in the DVA should be the only magistrates who presided over domestic violence cases. A single organisation or committee should be appointed to collate information on all the various service providers and the services rendered to victims of domestic violence. The organisation or committee should communicate and coordinate efforts with the service providers and provide an outlet for service providers to meet in order to identify and minimise gaps in the types of services and support provided for victims of domestic violence.

PAHRO hoped that the Committee would consider the obstacles that reduced the effectiveness of the DVA and its implementation and that the Committee would deliberate on the recommendations suggested during the review process and implement appropriate strategies to address the various challenges and obstacles. Everyone had the right to safety and security and no one, especially women, children and people with disabilities, should ever be subjected to acts of domestic abuse and violence.

Ms Mabe had noted the inconsistencies in the issuing of protection orders and that victims often did not have enough evidence to be granted protection orders and for warrants of arrest to be issued against the perpetrators. The need for the ongoing training of magistrates and members of the police and the monitoring of response times of the police was noted as well.

Mr T Mashamaite (ANC) asked if the service providers that needed training, which was referred to in the presentation were NGO’s or other organisations.

Ms Chui responded that any service provider that rendered a service to victims and perpetrators was included, especially SAPS because the police came into direct contact with victims of domestic violence and were often the first port of call. Training of police officers was essential.

Mr Mashamaite asked if Government or another organisation should run the training programmes.  He remarked that the number of service providers involved was not known at the national level.

Ms Chui responded that Government should decide who should take control of and provide the training required.

Ms Lebenya observed that a person could be arrested but was granted bail and released soon after.  She suggested that the DOJ considered amending the legislation allowing bail so that perpetrators were not set free and the law was allowed to take its course.

Ms Duncan asked if there were any positive outcomes from the DVA and if there were areas where changes to the existing legislation were not required.  So far, the Committee had only heard the negative aspects.  The Committee was committed to ensure that the necessary amendments were made to the legislation.  The Committee would benefit from having a broader view of how organisations and projects concerned with curbing domestic violence felt about those sections of the DVA that worked well. The recommendations concerning the retention of positive aspects of the Act would be welcomed.

Ms Malgas said that the purpose of the guidelines for the implementation of the DVA for magistrates was to assist and guide magistrates to implement the Act in a consistent and uniform manner.  She suggested that the guidelines were reviewed to assess if there were any shortcomings.

Mr G Mokgoro (ANC) asked if PAHRO could recommend any specific training for magistrates and the police, which would help in the realisation of the recommendations.

Ms Lebenya stressed that service providers had to work together to educate civil society about abuse by family members as that aspect of domestic violence was definitely a problem.

Ms Chui said that further research was necessary before training modules could be developed. The police officers completed a single once-off training session and she felt that was not sufficient.  It was not enough training to allow the police to be sensitive to the experience of victims and to effectively handle and interact with the victims and perpetrators in an appropriate manner. She suggested that the training provided included those aspects as well.

Mr Mokgoro remarked that the Committee was recently established and it might be necessary to first determine the causes of such an abusive society in order to gain a better perspective on the problem. He questioned if the Committee was the correct vehicle for dealing with the matter.

Ms Mabe stressed that the process was one of monitoring and evaluation and the aim of the public hearings was to establish the impact of the DVA on persons affected by domestic violence and abuse as well as to gain insight into both the challenges and achievements of the Act. Individuals as well as representatives from different NGO’s were presenting submissions to the Committee in order to highlight the areas where Government could improve and which parts of the Act needed to be amended. Once the two days of public hearings were completed, the Committee would deliberate on the submissions and draft a report and a strategic framework. The framework would identify the short, medium and long term solutions and the actions required by Parliament and the Executive with regard to the DVA.

Ms Ramodibe said that Mr Mokgoro had raised an important question.  The issue of domestic violence needed to be addressed by civil society, NGO’s, the Committee as well as Government.

The Chairperson said that Parliamentarians were the law makers and the process required that the people were engaged with and that input from the people was obtained.

Dr Mateme asked if there were different levels of sensitivity between male and female SAPS officers in cases of domestic violence. Such information was useful to the legislators as well as the Members of the Committee when the training of more officers was recommended. The recommendations could be biased either towards men or towards women, depending on the levels of sensitivity.

Mr T Geldenhuys (SAPS) agreed that Dr Mateme had raised a very important and valid question. Policemen and policewomen in South Africa were part of South African society - they represented society and were no different from other human beings with regard to their sensitivity. Part of the training provided included a better understanding of the social complexities surrounding domestic violence. Specific attention was given to raising the levels of sensitivity of all policemen and policewomen during training sessions and sensitivity training was presented to both male and female police officers in exactly the same manner. However, South Africa was a patriarchal society and males raised in South African society found it difficult to make the paradigm shift necessary to come to grips with the situation. The SAPS believed that there was a real need for police officers to make the paradigm shift but the same shift should be made by society in general before attitudes could be changed. He recalled that Prof Gevers had spoken specifically about the difficulty of making sure that positive attitudes were shaped during early childhood in order to ensure that a new generation grew up that had already made the paradigm shift. Many women in South Africa still believed that the husband was the boss and should be listened to and this approach was still followed. It was less difficult for policewomen to make the paradigm shift but in some instances they were also subjected to domestic violence whether their husbands were in the police service or not. Some policewomen had personal experience of domestic violence and tended to have a better understanding of the plight of women in similar situations.

The Chairperson requested that all persons other than Members of Parliament left the room as children would be making submissions.  Interested parties could return once the children’s presentations were over. (This part of the public hearings was not monitored by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group).

Submission by Mosaic
Ms M De Vos explained that Mosaic was a healing and training centre for women and was based in Cape Town. Programmes offered by Mosaic focused on domestic violence and a team of 25 workers delivered services at 16 domestic violence courts in and around Cape Town.The model of the organisation tackled domestic violence on more than one level and looked at the root causes and the consequences of abuse on the individual, at the relationship level, on the community and at the societal level. Domestic violence was often noisy with accusations; criticism, name-calling, threats and psychological manipulation becoming the order of the day. Abused persons often displayed behavioural problems (such as substance abuse), which had a further negative impact on the physical, mental and sexual health of women. In the application for a protection order, people often mentioned psychological abuse and manipulation through threats and problems with substance abuse. Economic abuse was a serious threat to the survival and health of women and their children. The number of incidents of physical abuse was alarmingly high and sexual abuse included forced sex and often forced sex in front of the children at home.

Mosaic provided a breakdown of the different types of abuse recorded during 2008.  Psychological manipulation occurred in 94% of cases, physical abuse in 63% of cases, economic abuse in 58% of cases and sexual abuse in 13% of cases.

The health consequences of domestic violence and abuse against women and children were divided between fatal and non-fatal incidences. The fatal outcomes included cases of femicide, suicide, Aids-related mortality and maternal mortality, which cost the country millions of Rands every year. The DVA stated that the
SAPS could make an arrest if there was a possibility that the victim could suffer imminent harm that put her or his health at risk and the SAPS could take a survivor of abuse for medical treatment if necessary. In addition, a health service provider could apply for a protection order on behalf of a victim and the court could impose additional conditions to provide for the health of the victim. Additional conditions could include seizing the weapon used by the abuser.

The DVA did not make provision for psycho-social support to victims and did not specify the role of the DOH. There was a primary health care package available but there was insufficient screening for signs of domestic violence at the clinics and hospitals.  There were many problems to contend with at the emergency units and there were infrequent referrals of victims from the clinics to other service providers. There was no policy framework attached to the DVA that linked the Act to the Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP). The role of the health sector and health policies related to domestic violence was fragmented.  The State had an obligation to prevent, investigate and punish violence against women and children, which included the fulfillment of the rights to health.

Some research had been done with the Gender Health and Justice Research Unit (GHJRU) at UCT and the results would be published in the near future. Mosaic participated in a pilot research project with GHJRU on attrition rates. The organisation focused on the almost 50% of women who did not return to court for the finalisation of their protection orders. The reasons given for the failure to return were found to be related to the physical and mental health of victims and their children: It was found that 18% of complainants were threatened with death by their abusive partners or abusers if they returned to court. Threats of further violence occurred in 21% of cases and the level of abuse increased in 10% of the cases. In 7% of cases, the abuser threatened to burn down the applicant’s house and in 10% of the cases, applicants were threatened with some form of sexual assault. 46% of victims reported the abuse of alcohol or drugs by the abusers.

There was a shortage of psychologists and the basic lay counsellor skills were too limited to deal with the depression and anxiety attacks suffered by victims. In many cases, abused women visited an NGO only once or twice. Individual psycho-social support was lacking and the victims often did not have the opportunity to attend support programmes more frequently. There were hardly any programmes to address the mental health needs of affected children in abusive households. In research carried out, it was found that some counselling provided to women who did not go to court had the same effect as cases where a protection order was granted.  The value of counselling should be further examined. There was a shortage of shelters where women and their children were afforded an opportunity to regain their mental and physical health, which was negatively affected by the abuse.

Research undertaken in 2006 provided statistics related to the effects of abuse on the mental health of women. It was found that anger issues resulted in 77% of cases, fear of the abuser in 69% of cases, a loss of confidence and concentration was experienced in 35% of cases, 62% of victims suffered from depression, 69% experienced tension and anxiety and 41% suffered from excessive crying.

Not enough attention was paid to sexual and reproductive health issues. There was a link between violence and sexual reproductive health and abused women needed special counselling for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, voluntary HIV counselling and testing, cervical health and pap smears, nutrition and pregnancy.  In many cases, the level of abuse increased when the victim was pregnant.

In 2010, South Africa would submit an UNGASS report to the United Nations on HIV/Aids progress in the country.  The link between domestic violence and HIV had to be mentioned in the report. In addressing the intersection between domestic violence and sexual health, research had shown that there was a high correlation between physical and sexual violence and HIV, more so than between rape and HIV. When a woman reported sexual and physical violence the red light should be flashing because domestic violence was one of the main drivers of the disease.

Mosaic recommended that health workers at all levels should be trained on domestic violence and how to do profiling, screening and referrals. More mental health care should be provided to victims by subsidising the NGO’s offering this type of service. Victims of domestic violence should be able to access services and receive assistance at the Thuthuzela Centres for rape victims.

Better indicators on domestic violence were needed at all levels and the DOJ submissions to the Portfolio Committee indicated how many protection orders were served each year. However, no analysis of the statistics were done and there was no information available on the perpetrators, where incidents occurred and where the ‘hot spots’ were. The establishment of patterns, far better indicators and accurate reporting of domestic violence incidents were essential.

Mosaic required more funding in order to deliver services to victims at the courts. In a single year, more than 20 000 people were assisted at the courts for domestic violence but no financial assistance was received from the DOJ. It was alarming that the DOJ was moving away from having specialised courts for sexual offences and refused to consider the establishment of specialised courts for cases involving domestic violence. Magistrates were reviewing the applications during their lunch and tea breaks and in between doing other work. It was imperative that this issue was addressed as more attention to the application was necessary. Legislation was in place but the policy surrounding the implementation of the DVA should deal with the various causes and consequences of the problem.  Efforts should be integrated and there should be a comprehensive policy on domestic violence in the DOH as well as a national policy framework for the DVA that linked all the domestic violence policies that were currently in place. The Victim Empowerment Policy was trying to do achieve this but the DVA was not very clear on the issue of policy.

Ms Mabe said that the role that entities responsible for health and social support should play was noted by the Committee. The backlog of court cases had been discussed in the submissions made on the 28th October 2009 and the DOJ had provided input on the current situation and the challenges faced by the courts..

Ms Ramodibe remarked that the cross-cutting of issues came across very clearly. The Committee would look into working with other Government Departments to ensure that all parties carried out their mandates.  The police was unable to provide the real reasons for the withdrawal of cases by victims. The police reported that most withdrawals were made because the victims were threatened with death. She queried whether the figure of 18% reported for cases that were withdrawn was accurate.

Ms Malgas asked why counselling had the same effect as the granting of a protection order on the victim.

Ms Petersen–Maduna asked if Mosaic had a plan to deal with issues relating to threats and forced sex.

Mr Kekana asked if there was statistical evidence that showed that socio-economic conditions and poverty aggravated domestic violence.

Ms De Vos explained that during counselling, a victim was afforded the opportunity to really talk over what was happening at home, how to deal with it and what other options were available to her. In many cases, the psychological and personal power gained from counselling allowed the victim to deal with abusive behaviour at home and in many cases, the incidents of abuse decreased or stopped entirely. Threats against the life of the victim were the first thing that was taken into account. The presence of a firearm and other weapons in the house was established and an escape plan was devised for potential violent incidents at the home. The magistrate would be requested to order the removal of any weapons and the removal of the perpetrator from the house. Other circumstances linked to domestic violence between not only intimate partners but also between family members included cramped living conditions and unemployment. Research had shown that there was a high correlation between poverty and domestic violence. However, poverty was not the cause of domestic violence and there were many poor households where there was no abuse.

Submission by the Gender Advocacy Programme (GAP)
Ms M Simrie explained that GAP worked with a number of other civil society organisations and the presentation would deal with the Victim Empowerment Programme. The VEP aimed to develop services and programmes for victims of crime and violence to minimize the effects of crime on victims and specifically focused on women and children. The VEP was based on the principle that victims needed to be empowered and should take responsibility and ownership for part of the process to enable them to address the effects of violence on themselves.

The components of the VEP consisted of training to foster greater victim sensitivity, a victim support programme based on previous research and providing basic information to victims, which helped them to prepare and lay complaints more easily and effectively and to obtain information on the progress of the cases. The DSD was the lead implementing organisation for the VEP and worked in collaboration with the DOJ and DOH. The VEP was an inter-sectoral Departmental programme that sought to promote a victim-centered approach towards crime prevention and it was one of the key programmes of the national crime prevention strategy. It was also one of the nine programmes of Pillar One, which specifically focused on increasing the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

The framework for the VEP was comprised of four policy components. The first component was the service charter for victims of crime and outlined the victim’s rights. It included the individual’s right to dignity and privacy and to be treated with fairness and respect, the right to protection and the right to legal, social, health and counselling assistance, the right to compensation when the victim has suffered loss or damage to property, the right to restitution where a victim of crime had been unlawfully dispossessed of their goods or their property had been damaged, the right to offer information and the right to receive information. The second component defined the minimum service standards for delivering victim empowerment, special provisions such as shelters, the safety and security of victims of domestic violence, health care and the access to education for children. The third component was the uniform protocol on victim empowerment, which sought to specifically address the needs of victims of sexual offences and domestic violence. The fourth component was an integrated victim empowerment policy that provided guidelines for the establishment, development and the delivery of victim empowerment services.

The problems with the VEP programme were highlighted. One of the major issues was that women did not know their rights or how to access support services for domestic violence. Training provided for SAPS officials to introduce greater victim sensitivity was ineffectual. The provision of basic information to complainants regarding the status and progress of their cases was not functioning as it should. The seven rights of the victims were not being realised. Complainants were often not treated with fairness, respect, dignity and privacy. Confidentiality was not maintained and the dignity of complainant was not respected. Many women were denied the right to offer information because they were not provided with an opportunity to participate in criminal justice proceedings. The right to receive information was very problematic, especially in rural communities, because people were often not given information in their language of choice. Inadequate resource allocation restricted the right to protection from abuse, which entailed frequent intimidation and harassment and generally brought the DVA into disrepute

The right to assistance and access to social, health, counselling and legal services was frequently violated. As victims of violent crime, the right to recourse was failing, as many women were still unable to access compensation for loss of or damage to their property. Many women had been denied the right to restitution where they were unlawfully dispossessed of their property, or where their goods and property was damaged. Government service delivery largely did not meet the minimum standards stipulated. Secondary victimisation was not defined in the victim’s charter or in the minimum standards. The uniform protocol on the VEP and the integrated victim empowerment policy lacked monitoring and the VEP currently did not have a monitoring and evaluation strategy linked to it. There was a need to specifically attend to victim empowerment legislation and although the policy frameworks were helpful, they were not legislated. The grant application process should be reassessed as shelters for abused women and children were unable to apply for grants because they were not considered to be a direct service.

Recommendations proposed included the implementation of existing VEP legislation, the assessment of policy provisions and the addressing of the impediments to the implementation of the provisions. There should be greater sectoral collaboration to maximise the impact of the VEP and adequate resource allocation and gender-sensitive budgeting should be given priority. Assessment and improvement of service delivery by SAPS and the DOJ was important as was the implementation of the DVA by other Departments, such as the DOH and the DOE. A victim-friendly legal system should be created, which included support for legal professionals to integrate victim support and victim empowerment into the legal service. There should be appropriate adequate healthcare, which was sensitive to the needs of victims of domestic violence and particularly to women who suffered abuse and domestic violence. The basic needs of victims should be met to avoid secondary victimisation and GAP placed emphasis on this issue as a priority area that must be addressed. The processes for grant applications and the criteria for the allocation of grants should be reassessed so that civil society organisations and committees working in the field of domestic violence could receive adequate financial support.

Ms Malgas remarked that the repetition and re-emphasis of issues assisted the Committee to identify the major issues. The Committee was made aware of the violation of the victim’s right to privacy and the matter of protection orders as these issued had been brought to the attention of the Committee in earlier submissions.

Ms Ramodibe said that the Committee had to ensure that the existing legislation was improved and tightened up in order for all the responsible sectors to come on board to ensure that the law was effectively implemented.

Submission by the Saartjie Baartman Centre (SBC)
Ms S McLeod explained that the SBC offered a range of services to women and children who had experienced domestic and sexual violence. The centre managed eight projects, including two shelters situated in Mannenberg and Worcester.  Both areas were riddled with unemployment, gangsterism, crime and drug and alcohol abuse. Through partnerships with nine NGO’s based on the premises of the centre, approximately 550 to 600 clients per month were assisted. The centre was established ten years ago and had experienced an increase of 114% in the number of clients in the previous year alone.

The SBC stated with absolute conviction that the DVA did not protect the majority of survivors of abuse. At the Saartjie Baartman Centre and shelter the most horrific forms of abuse to both women and children were observed. The SBC worked very hard to provide the services needed by abused women and believed that the centre should receive more assistance and support from Government Departments for the services provided. On average, shelters received between R200 and R300 per month and were expected to provide basic services, counselling, legal advice, life skills and job skills programmes and a host of other services to the victims at the shelters. No funding was received to provide food, accommodation, counselling, medical services and legal assistance that were desperately needed by the survivors. In addition, survivors had no access to safe and secure accommodation and resources once they had left the shelters.  The policy for special-needs housing had been in draft form for the past nine years.

There was a need for economic empowerment programmes to assist those survivors who had chosen to break the cycle of abuse and to rebuild their lives. The SBC believed that there was a lack of support services available to survivors, such as mental health and legal services.  SAPS was unable to provide adequate services for the women and their children and the police officials were not adequately trained to offer effective services in a sensitive manner. The SBC commended Government for bringing about legislation but unfortunately the effective implementation of the Act was hampered by a lack of accountability, monitoring and evaluation.

Ms R Cox reported on a case received by the SBC on the evening of the 28 October 2009.  A woman from the rural areas approached the centre to find out how she could best support her family financially. She had been involved with a young man and had given birth to his baby. She had visited a friend and when she returned from the visit, the boyfriend she was living with was not at home. She decided to return to her friend’s house and decided to spend the night there. When she and the baby returned home the next morning, the boyfriend started to verbally and physically abuse her. He was extremely jealous and accused her of having an affair with someone else and refused to accept that she had spent the night at the home of an older female friend.  After an entire day of abuse, she went to bed, leaving the boyfriend in the kitchen.  He put on a kettle of water and she thought that he was going to make a cup of coffee for them and the matter would be settled. She fell asleep and he poured the boiling water over her.

Ms Cox was unable to speak to the victim because she was on her way to hospital. The victim was so badly burned that a hole had to be made in her throat and a device inserted that allowed her to speak. The burns on her face were so severe that it appeared as if she had fifth degree burns and she struggled to breathe. She had to return to the hospital on a daily basis for the dressings to be changed.  She feared for the safety of herself and her child and she was extremely angry that this man could do what he did to her and still remain at large.

Ms Cox was a member of the police forum and reported that some successes were achieved. The centre had worked with different police stations and she reported that there were good policemen and good police stations. She said that women had fought hard to bring about change in the country but were still trapped in their own prisons, where they were abused.  Many women were not really free. Children were referred to the centres after being raped by their fathers while the child was sleeping between the mother and the father. After raping his own child, the father told the mother that he was better satisfied by the child than by the wife. Such atrocious role modeling was presented to the youth and she asked herself how many more women and children would be abused, raped or killed before anything would be done about it. As a mother, she taught her sons to be better citizens.  The crèche at the centre did not allow any toys depicting weapons in an attempt to eradicate violence against women and children by changing attitudes and by introducing other small changes within the community. The SBC participated in the public hearings to urge Government to work with the organisations that were trying to make a difference.  She said that the legislation was basically sound but the effectiveness of the implementation of the DVA needed to be reviewed.

The Chairperson commented that the Committee had seen and heard many similar cases and wanted to help women by rectifying the abuse that was taking place. The public hearings were held because the Committee was aware that there were shortcomings in the Act. There were many challenges for Government and the Committee wanted to address the issues that were being raised.

Mr G Selau (ANC) was concerned about the many pathetic cases that were cited in the various presentations to the Committee.  The view of the Members was that more could be achieved by cooperation between Government and the NGO’s. He asked if the major problem was the lack of implementation of the Act, the fear of the victims that prevented them from taking action against their abusers, the institutional arrangements for the implementation of the Act or the Act itself and what was suggested to improve the situation. He remarked that there was a lot of violence in many marriages, which severely restricted the freedom of women. He felt that marriage should be a happy institution because it produced the future leaders of the country. He asked if the SBC had any suggestions on ensuring that marriages became institutions of happiness.

Ms Ramodibe expressed her sadness at the case studies reported in the presentation.  She felt that society was regressing instead of improving. She was not sure what had happened to our society when a human being poured boiling water over someone who was helpless simply because he had the physical power to do so.  Such incidents were merely examples of mindless cruelty and barbarism. She conceded that there was a lack of funding for NGO’s and encouraged the representatives not to despair because it was possible to achieve some, if not all, of the goals. She agreed that neither Government nor civil society could successfully deal with the issue of domestic violence on their own.

Ms Duncan said that the incident described was horrific and only one of many that the centre had to deal with. She remarked that although women were politically free, they we were far from being economically and socially free. Families were often not the nuclear families of the past, with a mother, a father and children. There were many child-headed and single parent households and the elderly grandparents were looking after orphaned children and grandchildren.  She wondered if the changes in the basis of the family unit were being catered for. She was concerned that many institutions for substance abuse had only a single programme, which was applied to all age groups. If a former patient relapsed, the person was returned to the same programme. She felt that the money spent in such cases could have been better utilised for someone else if the programme was effective.  The responsibility for follow-up care had to be shared by many other stakeholders, including the community, the parents and the home where the person was being returned to. One should never give up hope but should continue in a way that brightened and built society to pick up the moral fibre in communities, to reach out to the other organisations involved (for example churches) and to work together to amalgamate all efforts. She challenged the NGO’s to review their programmes as a lot had changed in recent years.

Ms M Kennedy (Limpopo Legislature) remarked that the presentation had been an eye-opener in many ways as it touched on a point that most parents tended to ignore. Christmas was a month away and many parents bought plastic guns and plastic swords as gifts for their children, unaware that such toys could brew the criminal characters within small children. Many children grew up in an oppressive society and when they became adults, would be able to use real guns because they learnt to become experts in handling such objects from an early age.

Ms McLeod advised that the SBC had initiated a project where two paralegals assisted approximately 350 women per month with applying for protection orders.  The Centre had a very good relationship with the SAPS as both entities worked together. The SBC offered education and training on the rights of women and children and encouraged police officers to be more gender-sensitive and to be more sympathetic towards women who were survivors of domestic violence. If there was an instance where a client did not receive the proper treatment, the matter was immediately taken up with the station commander, to ensure that the incident did not recur. The Saartjie Baartman Centre worked in partnership with nine other NGO’s that were housed on its premises and that offered a host of services, which were continuously expanded to bridge the gaps that were identified within the community. A new education and training programme was recently initiated that catered for child-headed households, where the children were within the schooling system and within communities.  The objective of the programme was to teach the children how to run their lives and how to best manage the household and their siblings. The SBC provided educational programmes in the corporate sector that were aimed at teaching employees and employers to be sensitive to the needs of women that were going difficult times in their lives. The programmes and approaches were geared to meet the needs of the survivors of domestic violence and were amended on a regular basis.

Ms Cox said that schools had community service programmes, which offered students the opportunity to do field work. Students visited the centre in groups to receive advice about their future and the career opportunities available and to see how the students could best assist children. Occasionally, students were allowed to spend time at the crèche to see how they could change the life of a child. There were students who wanted to become social workers but decided against such a career after observing the work that had to be done. The programme worked very well for the SBC.  Other programmes, for example Wolonani, concerned the wellbeing of women and referred women to clinics for health reasons and tests when necessary. The SBC attempted to accommodate the programmes offered by other organisations in order to consider families in a holistic manner.

Ms Cox felt that, as a mother herself, she should make a contribution towards programmes aimed at males because she had male children.  She was part of a group that went to prisons where programmes were offered for men that were in prison for committing domestic violence. At the prison in Malmesbury, she had started off with a group of 14 prisoners but the size of the group had increased to 45 people. She was very pleased with the increase in the number of participants and had noticed that men did not know how to proceed with implementing the principles taught in the programme. She had worked with men at the Pollsmoor and Caledon prisons as well. One of the men in her group was transferred to the Johannesburg Central prison but had maintained communication because he felt that she could help him by providing guidelines for his life. She stressed that the little things in life counted and society could be changed through such small changes. Many children in the communities were growing up as “pavement children” and “padlock and key children”. Children were growing up on the streets because the parents were absent or at work for most of the day.  These children were often alone at home and were scared and locked themselves in and watched television all day. She asked what children were taught by such a lifestyle and if there was anything else for children to do. Many parents were unable to be available to their children at all times and that meant that they were unable to monitor what their children watched on television. A child was vulnerable at home and risked being injured or killed. She recommended that everybody started with the small changes that could be implemented immediately to assist and help the community and society to improve.

The Chairperson agreed that if the little things were taken care of, the big things tended to follow suit. At the previous hearing, Professor Van As spoke about violence in the media and examples in the electronic media and the Internet were discussed.  Government had an integrated approach to the issue of violence in society and the Committee would consider the moral regeneration of society, the family unit and family values together with NGO’s and community-based organisations. The Committee was not always aware of whether or not Government Departments had adopted an integrated approach. It was not always clear which Department had the lead mandate and Government Departments did not necessarily take the initiative to hold discussions with each other Departments, which tended to complicate matters.

Submission by REACH
Ms C Foster explained that REACH was founded in 2005 in response to the high prevalence of sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse and HIV/Aids in the rural farming communities of the Western Cape. There was a lack of effective programmes to address these issues and to assist people whose lives were affected by such social problems. REACH had a holistic approach of raising awareness, training, counselling and advocacy and worked with farming communities and rural communities to encourage individuals and communities to become more empowered and to live their lives free from sexual harassment and sexual violence. In order to end violence in society, everyone had to be personally committed and laws needed to ensure that the rights of individuals were protected.

The organisation participated in the public hearings because they believed that the implementation of the DVA should be improved through cooperation between all the affected parties. It was essential that the voices of women from rural communities were heard because they had suffered great loss and pain as a result of the lack of implementation of the Act over the previous eleven years. The aim of the submission from REACH was to highlight the situation of women living in the rural and farming communities of the Western Cape.

REACH met Ms Claudine Dyck during an awareness-raising workshop and had provided assistance to her in the form of counselling, referrals and advocacy. Over the years, REACH had follo-up sessions with Ms Dyck and observed how she had become a survivor.  Ms Dyck was chosen as the face of REACH for 2009. She had overcome adversity and embodied the dreams, vision and goals of REACH. As an ambassador for the organisation, she would tell the Committee about her life as a survivor of domestic violence and how the law intended to protect her and her children had failed her. Ms Dyck was alive today because of her own strong will and the support of REACH.

Ms C Dyck: (Victim) spoke in Afrikaans and a translator was provided to translate her submission into English.  She said that it was a privilege to share her story with everyone.  She was a woman who had been abused for 14 years. The husband she was married to for eight years had frequently beaten her up, tied her up and raped her. She had two children from her marriage (a boy and a girl) and when her husband raped her; her three-year old daughter would be forced by her husband to watch. She would plead with her husband to send the girl out of the room but he insisted that their daughter witnessed the rape. During their marriage, he would bring his girlfriends to their home to spend the weekend. Her husband demanded that she prepared food and washed the clothes of the girlfriends he brought home and if she refused, both she and her daughter would be beaten. He would have sex with his girlfriends in their bedroom and afterwards she would be forced to clean them with her tongue, while her daughter watched. This abuse continued for years and at the time she thought that her daughter did not notice what was happening.

She had completed matric, had studied financial management and had good jobs, but her husband took all her earnings to spend on himself.  One Friday night, they did not have money for gas and she made a fire outside the house to prepare food. While she was turning the sausage over in the pan, her husband hit her with a brick on the back of her head. She collapsed into the pan, the drum containing the coals fell over and she fell into the fire. Her daughter tried to pull her out of the coals and alerted the neighbours. The abuse continued for eight years but she was too afraid to talk about it. When she went to the police to lay a charge against her husband, she was told to get an interdict. Her husband was sent to jail for three months and when he was released he smashed up everything in the house, broke all the windows and beat her up again. The interdict did not help her and he could have killed her at that time. She decided to divorce her husband as she could no longer continue to live in that manner.

Two and a half years later, she met a fireman and at the time she thought that he was everything in her life. They were together for three years and during that time, she worked as an assistant manager at a chain store. He insisted that she had no contact with his father and mother or with any male or female friends. She was not allowed to buy presents for his parents.  He had two children but she was not allowed to have a relationship with them. She thought that he was better than her ex-husband because he was a father to her children but jealousy destroyed the relationship and when he hit her and threatened her with a knife, she thought “Not again”. When his children came to their home, he told her to chase them away, but she never did that and took the resulting beating from him rather than allow the children to experience the heartache of being chased away. She later found out that he had other girlfriends as well.

She refused to live such a life again and decided to talk to him and tell him that their relationship was over. The following Saturday, she told him that she felt that the relationship was over and that she did not want to continue with it. She told him to remove his belongings and to leave her house. He laughed at her and went into the kitchen. She thought that he was going to see if the door was closed and that he would fetch a knife as he had threatened her with a knife before. He went to see if all the windows and doors were closed and when he returned to the bedroom, he had a knife in his pocket. He took a paraffin lamp and placed it on the cupboard between the two beds in the room.  He laughed and told her that he would show her that he was serious when he told her that if he could not have her, nobody else would and he would rather see her dead.

She was afraid but told herself that she had to put a stop to the abuse that day and that the relationship she had with the man was over. He took the lamp and at first she thought that he was going to light it because the curtains were drawn and the room was quite dark. However, he opened the lamp and threw the paraffin over her. He picked up a lighter and told her to light it and set fire to herself. She pleaded with him and told him that she would not leave him and that she would accept anything he wanted because she loved him very much. He laughed at her and again told her to strike the lighter. She kept the lighter at a distance from herself but he took out the knife and held it to her throat. She again pleaded with him but he told her to shut up and do what he said. She tried to keep the lighter away from her body but he smacked her hand against her body and she caught alight. She could not say for how long she burned and she was unable to describe the agony, but it was absolutely terrible.

She pleaded and begged with him to douse the flames.  She told him that as a fireman who often came into contact with people who were burned, he should know what it was like. She screamed in agony and he poured water over her. The flames went out but when she looked at herself, she saw that holes had burned into her breasts and the house smelt as if meat had been fried in a pan. The skin on her right arm had peeled off and the arm was just bone and a bit of meat. Twice she asked him to call an ambulance or to phone the manager at the fire station because he knew what to do.  She begged him to help her. She was screaming in agony and he told her to shut up.  When he smacked her, her flesh stuck to his hand when he took his hand away from her face.  He wiped his hand against her breast and again pulled away the flesh from where she had been burnt. She passed out from the pain and he threw her on the bed and threw a wet towel over her. She lay on the bed for a day and a night and he locked her up to prevent her from leaving and getting help.

At the time of the incident, her children were with her grandmother.  He warned her that if she told the children that he had burned her, he would kill them all. She thought that the children were in danger and that she was helpless to protect them. When the children returned home the next evening, he stood behind her daughter and gave her a threatening look. She told the children that she had accidentally burned herself with boiling water. During the night, she frequently fainted with the pain.  When she was awake he had sex with her while lying on top of the towel that covered her.  She fainted again and when she recovered consciousness, the sex continued.  This abuse continued all night as well as all day Sunday.

On Sunday evening, she told him that she was hungry although she could not eat because her mouth was full of blisters. She asked for yoghurt from the fridge in the kitchen and that he should try and spray it in her mouth so that she could have something in her stomach. Her bed was below the window and when he left the room to fetch the yoghurt, she told her daughter to jump out of the window. In her haste to get out, her daughter trod on her breasts and her foot just sank into her flesh. It was extremely painful but she felt that it was worth it because her daughter managed to escape and saved her life. Her daughter ran to his mother and told her what had happened. His mother came over and phoned for an ambulance. The ambulance and the police arrived and when she was asked what had happened, she told them that it was an accident. She had decided to pretend that it was an accident until she was strong enough to protect her children because they would be in danger while she was in hospital. She felt that he was quite capable of harming her children if he could burn and abuse her so badly.  She did not want to go to hospital because she thought that she was near to death and wanted to die with her children close by. She was taken to hospital and the police asked her four times if it was an accident.  She again replied that she had accidentally been burned by boiling water but the police replied that boiling water did not burn in that way.

The ambulance took her to Stanford hospital, from where she was transferred to Tygerberg hospital by helicopter.  At one point she had stopped breathing but was resuscitated. She received the first skin graft immediately and was informed that a further seven grafts would be necessary, followed by another six grafts. Her face, hands and feet were bandaged and only one eye was open.  She could see a little but she could not walk or use her hands.

When she had been in hospital for three days, her daughter (who was 11 years old at the time), called late at night and told her that the man was living in the house with her children, that the children were still wearing the same clothes that they had worn for the previous three days, that they had not been to school and that there was no food in the house. The children were hungry and her daughter asked her what they should do and to come home.  That was the breaking point for her and she prayed to God for help.  She felt that it was unfair that there were two children that needed her while she was lying helpless in hospital.  She realised that she had to be both mother and father to her children. She prayed for the ability to use her hands and was prepared to crawl on her knees to be with her children. She did not think about her own health and her children were the most important factor in her life.

When she had been in the hospital for five days, she heard her son’s voice in the passage outside the ward.  She was unable to use her cell phone because her fingertips were raw.  Her feet were bandaged and she was unable to walk.  She was determined to leave the hospital with her children and prayed to God for the strength to do so. When she heard her children’s voices, she tried to move herself and fell off the bed. She crawled and struggled to the door and as she crawled, her wounds re-opened and the bandages became red with blood.  The pain could not stop her because her love for her children was greater than the pain. She fainted and when the doctor saw her, he asked her why she had attempted to leave her bed.  She insisted that she was going home that day but the doctor said that she was not allowed to go home. She replied that she was determined that her children would not leave the hospital without their mother. She again prayed to God.  When the time came for the children to leave, the doctor refused to discharge her and she refused to stay in the hospital. She crawled and pulled herself outside while the doctors and nurses walked along and pleaded with her to stay, but she refused. She left Tygerberg hospital with a red card, which meant that she could not return for treatment if her wounds became infected.

Her children had already left and it was beginning to get dark.  She hid in the grounds of the hospital because she was afraid that the police or an ambulance would find her and take her back to the hospital. She called the person who had given her children a lift to Tygerberg hospital and he fetched her and took her to her home. In the mornings she started bathing at about 08h00 and finished at 17h00 and her daughter would help her. It was winter and she was constantly tired and cried for hours on end. For six or seven months she lay there without help from anybody and slowly nursed herself back to health with the help of her daughter. She had no income and the man gave her no money. She thanked God that she could be at home for her children.  When she had healed, she went to the police station to lay a charge against the man. When the case was heard, she had no support from anyone else.  He laughed when she gave her evidence before the magistrate and she found the experience to be very difficult. She had thought that the man would regret his actions but he had no remorse. He was sentenced to nine years in jail.

She said that there were few women like her who were able to stand on their own feet without receiving any help from others. She fought for her children because they were the most important thing to her and she refused to curl up in a corner. Her children had starved but nobody had helped them and she had received no assistance or advice from anyone. In 2006, she applied for financial support for her children at the maintenance court.  To date she had not received any financial assistance and she had decided that she would be better off if she relied on her own efforts. She attended a course offered by REACH and since then they had visited her at her home in Gansbaai on three occasions as well as provided telephonic assistance to her. She had recovered physically but the heartache remained.  She was a strong person and her children were healthy.

In 2009, she was elected ‘woman of the year’ in Gansbaai. Currently, she managed a safe house for abandoned children and a community centre soup kitchen.  She was a foster-mother and took care of two foster children. The mother of her foster children lived on a farm and had told her that her husband was sexually abusing her and their two daughters. She had contacted a social worker to report the case because she felt that the abuse should be put a stop to. The social worker told her that she could not handle the matter because it was Friday and that she should return on the following Monday.  She decided that the matter could not wait and telephoned REACH.  REACH responded immediately and fetched the children in the early hours of the morning.  When they arrived, the father was having sex with the eldest daughter.  She fought to keep the children and to be allowed to look after them but the court reasoned that she could not adopt the children because she lived in a squatter camp in a two-roomed wendy house and had a small income. She responded that her love was more than enough for the children and just as her love had carried her own children through difficult times, it would be enough for the foster children as well.  Love and caring were not about money or riches and came from the heart.  She won the case and was allowed to foster the two children.

She was an advisor for REACH because she wanted to help women. She was a community leader and worked with approximately 500 people every day and was available for 24 hours per day. She did not charge for her services and her monthly income was only R1 600. Every Saturday and Sunday she provided food for 53 children, at her own expense. She was struggling financially and could not cope alone and had approached the municipality, the police station and private companies for assistance.  Although everyone promised to help, nothing came of the promises. She had gained much knowledge from her own experiences and wanted to help others but required financial assistance. Domestic violence was a massive problem and women should not put up with it any longer.  She begged that effective assistance was provided to abused women as interdicts against the abusers was ineffective and allowed the abuse to continue when the perpetrators were released.

The Chairperson gave the assurance that the Committee would consider the problem and determine what could be done to address it.

Mr Selau observed that domestic violence against women and children was “alive, strong and kicking”.  The issue was not easily dealt with and he understood that people became frustrated when questions were asked. So far, most of the presentations did not advise the Committee on the structures and mechanisms that needed to be put in place, which needed to involve communities, Government, NGO’s and other structures. Social workers had an important role to play, but their role appeared to merely provide comfort to people when they were hurt and to encourage them to continue to fight on. He felt that the Committee needed to engage with the DOJ and that it was necessary for the justice system to become more aware of the issues. The President should be commended for the decision to establish the Department to unearth these issues within society and to focus on the road ahead. He said that it was clear that we were living in an abnormal society.

Mr Selau said that the road ahead needed to be discussed by the Portfolio Committee once all the submissions had been received.  The Committee needed to involve all the organisations that had submitted presentations in order to ensure that they became part of the solution. The problem had been clearly identified and now everyone concerned needed to determine the solutions. The Committee would ensure that any changes required to the legislation were made but one of the major issues was how to ensure that legislation addressed the actual problem. He suggested that a forum representing all the stakeholders (such as the DOJ, SAPS and NGO’s that dealt with those matters) was established and that Parliament formed a second, smaller forum that could be effective. He found it difficult to come up with a solution to the problem of domestic violence.

The Chairperson said that officials in the responsible Departments who failed to carry out their duties were held accountable and were dealt with. People should not have to approach the Committee for assistance when the relevant Government Departments were responsible for providing the assistance required. The Committee would have to establish where the responsible Departments had failed.  She requested that the contact details of Ms Dyck and REACH were recorded by the Parliamentary Researcher.

Ms Duncan said that it was a good thing that the Committee heard what was happening in the real world so that Members were better able to serve the people. The interaction taking place between Members and their constituents might not be enough.  Members needed to refer individual cases to the respective Departments for action.  She remarked that violence in general and domestic violence in particular was as old as time but hoped that with the assistance of all concerned, it could at least be minimised.

Dr Mateme was saddened by hearing what cruelty a human being could be subjected to by another human being. She remarked that the hearings were particularly relevant as the 16 days of activism against violence towards women and children were to be launched within the following few days. In 2009, the focus was on the role of the father. She said that an appeal must be made to society in general to tackle the monster of domestic violence head on. She expressed appreciation for the courage displayed by Ms Dyck to share her personal experience and that she would be remembered for that.  She believed that more could be done by working together and that this would be achieved. She hoped that the DSD noted what attitudes their clients were often confronted with.  She remarked that those present at the hearings were the privileged few to receive this type of testimony.

Ms Petersen-Maduna said that she had been deeply moved by Ms Dyck’s story and had written down a few words of comfort for her. “The horror I saw made me feel something, the horror I saw made me wonder, the horror I saw made me feel dirty, the horror I saw made me feel that this world is a waste of time. I felt like I was dreaming, it was not happening to me, decent respectful beautiful women as you are, does it mean that this was a part of growing up or was it a gaining of experience, or was it that I was getting more matured. I am not supposed to relate to others. I think that going back to my father I will be able to know to say what my experience is but why should the world be so cruel. Why should innocent people suffer no one will ever know the pain I’m going through Claudine. The pain and suffering was not created by you. I know God will come to my rescue he always does anyway”. She said that as Government and with everybody working together they were going to do more.

Ms Foster said that she would not include the recommendations in the presentation as these were included in the documentation sent to the Committee. The lives of women and children were affected every day by what was spoken of in the presentation and these experiences were not once-off incidents that went away like a broken arm that healed, but continued to affect the lives of the victims. There were many other stories similar to that of Ms Dyck and REACH looked forward to working with other committed parties.

Submission by the Cape Law Society
Ms S van Staden advised that the core problem with the implementation of the Act was that the police and others responsible for implementing the Act were not properly trained.  The same problem applied to providing assistance to people to obtain restraining orders and the implementation of restraining orders. There was a general awareness of the Act but the officials concerned were not adequately trained to advise complainants of their rights. Restraining orders were rarely enforced and did not provide sufficient protection to the complainant. In many cases, no explanation of the action required from the complainant to ensure that violations were acted upon was provided. This failure allowed the assaults and abuse of the complainant to continue.

Another concern was that magistrates were not fully trained in implementing the Act and tended to issue orders that fell outside the ambit of the Act. For instance, the provision of emergency monetary relief could be ordered in cases where there was financial abuse.  In many cases, the orders granted were virtually permanent maintenance orders. The orders were granted under circumstances where the respondent was not given a hearing and the complainant was granted whatever financial relief requested. The time elapsed before the interim order could be made final often ran into months because of the unavailability of magistrates and the general backlog at the courts. This resulted in a maintenance order being put in place that could cause hardship for the respondent.

Another problem that fell outside the ambit of the Act was an order that did not deny the respondent contact with his children but prohibited him from coming near the complainant. The respondent was effectively prohibited from seeing his children. Because of the problems experienced in obtaining a final hearing, such orders were similar to contact orders. The orders were generally granted as interim orders and an anticipated date for the final hearing would be given.  This meant that the respondent was given 24 hours notice of the final hearing. It was a common problem, which was often not voiced and resulted in the malfunctioning of the system. The courts were extremely clogged, no effect was given to that particular section and the challenge was how to put the necessary systems and structures in place to improve the effectiveness of the Act.

The lack of training provided to the people responsible for implementing the orders was emphasised.  Training should start with the police, the officials of the courts and the DOJ. Training could be in the form of workshops for the people who were responsible for the implementation of the Act and the orders.  If the orders were given effect, there would be less of those incidents which were related during the hearings. If the perpetrators of those heinous acts against women knew that the orders against them would be properly implemented, there would be a more effective deterrent in place and might contribute to a reduction in the levels of violence against women and children. The current training available had to be re-evaluated and more time and money had to be made available for training.  The court system needed to be unclogged so that cases could be heard more speedily.

The Chairperson said that, in the interests of time, the Members of the Committee would not pose any questions as earlier submissions had already dealt with the justice system and with the lack of training.

Submission by Ms J Govender (Disabled victim)
Ms Govender said that disabled people faced the same crises as able-bodied persons but were not in a position to escape or to obtain help. She too was a victim of domestic violence and reported that people with disabilities were unable to access those services that were available because of transport difficulties. There were no places of safety where disabled victims could be moved to get them away from the abusive situation that they were experiencing. 99% of disabled people lived on social grants and had nowhere to go if they complained or took action against the abuser. People with disabilities faced many problems but were afraid to report many of the crimes committed against them because they had nowhere else to go.

Recently, she found herself in that situation when she laid a charge against the man she had been living with and obtained a court order.  She had her possessions removed from the home she was sharing with the man and tried to find somewhere else to live.  She found that most people were reluctant to rent out accommodation to a person in a wheelchair.  One woman told her that she did not like seeing “crippled people in her yard”.

Ms Govender felt that domestic violence should be categorised as a high priority crime and that stricter sentences should be handed out to the perpetrators of that crime. Domestic violence was not a condition or a cause. As long as the focus remained on the condition, the problem of domestic violence would never be resolved. She suggested that more emphasis was placed on the causes because domestic violence tended to be a cyclic condition.  Alcohol abuse was often blamed for causing domestic violence but she believed that alcohol was made the scapegoat but the causes for the violence lay elsewhere.

The Chairperson agreed that the root causes of domestic violence needed to be established before effective solutions could be explored.

Submission by Women’s Legal Centre (WLC)
Ms C Sanger said that no matter how many cases of domestic violence she dealt with or heard about, she continued to feel emotional and knew that many women had to live under enormous strain. The Women’s Legal Centre was a non-profit organisation (NPO) and independently-funded law centre. The bulk of the funding was secured from overseas donors and individuals. The WLC was established in 1999 by a group of women lawyers, shortly after the implementation of the Constitution. The purpose of the WLC was to develop the legislation relevant to women in terms of the Bill of Rights. The core function of the WLC was strategic litigation, when specific cases with specific sets of facts were accepted in order to highlight a problem with the law or to change the law with the intention of improving the legislation for women. The work done included the areas of property and land law, labour law, access to health services, marriage and relationship rights and gender-based violence.  Sexual and domestic violence formed a large proportion of the work done by the Centre. Other activities included advocacy work in the areas of training, educating people about their rights and providing a legal advice service. The Centre had one designated legal advisor and she was a paralegal assistant. In 2008, she saw 1 500 women and the vast majority of the cases were related to domestic violence.

The recommendations and problems that were highlighted were based on actual experiences and did not purport to be a complete assessment of all the problems experienced by the courts and the police in the implementation of the DVA. The WLC had submitted submissions and had contributed to the joint submissions made by a group of other civil society organisations where the problems and recommendations were set out in detail.

The WLC had identified that the courts and SAPS failed to comply with the duties specified in the DVA by the inefficient execution of those duties. Some provisions of the DVA were not efficient to allow for the actual purpose of the DVA to be given effect. The Preamble stated that the purpose of the Act was to afford survivors of domestic violence the best possible protection that could be provided to them and to ultimately eradicate gender-based violence from the country. A number of clients had reported that they had been to court to see a domestic violence clerk but were not attended to on the same day. The magistrate’s courts limited the time available for seeing women and devoted the remainder of the day to the issuing of protection orders. This practice appeared to be a common problem, particularly in the Western Cape, where many of the clients of the WLC resided. The WLC recommended that more domestic violence clerks were appointed so that more women can be attended to on the same day. The matter should be given the highest priority in the light of the gravity, the seriousness and the high frequency of domestic violence incidents. The Centre failed to understand why abused women could just be sent away by the courts when they went there to appeal for protection.

Secondly, complainants reported insensitive treatment from both domestic violence clerks and magistrates. Such treatment was a major concern as it had the effect of further traumatising the woman instead of empowering her and providing assistance. More training was required of court officials in the areas of gender consciousness and gender-based violence and the impact on women. More extensive and continuous training was needed to improve the service delivered by the magistrate’s courts as the insensitive treatment of victims restricted and prevented women from coming forward and asking for assistance.

Domestic violence clerks failed to inform complainants of their right to lay a corresponding criminal charge for assault or any other relevant deed of domestic violence. The WLC recommended that magistrates should inform women of their rights as part of the court procedures, including the procedures when the finalisation of the protection order was considered. The WLC suggested that the Act included a provision that complainants were made aware of their rights and the options available to them. The Centre was satisfied that there was a civil remedy but it would be beneficial to abused women if the criminal law was used as well.

Complainants often failed to present a proper case when the court considered the finalisation of an interim protection order, particularly when the respondent had engaged the services of an attorney. Legal representation should be provided to women who could not afford an attorney and Legal Aid should expand their mandate to include such cases. Interim protection orders were not being finalised because women were not able to put forward a proper case to the court because of a lack of understanding of procedures, the intimidating nature of the court or the process itself. It was important that the complainant’s case was properly brought to ensure that a protection order was granted.

Magistrates’ powers should be extended to allow magistrates to subpoena witnesses. It was very difficult to persuade a witness to come forward and testify when the witness feared retaliation from the respondent, feared being cast out by the community by speaking out about such matters or perceived domestic violence as a family matter that should not be aired in public. If magistrates could subpoena witnesses, it would strengthen the complainant’s case. Magistrate’s powers were limited when it came to protecting the safety and wellbeing of complainants and should be extended to allow the magistrate to issue an order that a particular member of SAPS or the station commander of a particular police station investigate a particular matter or a situation if the magistrate was of the opinion that the wellbeing and safety of the complainant were at risk. The station commander or SAPS officer concerned had to report on the investigation to the magistrate. Because SAPS often failed to investigate domestic violence cases, more drastic measures to ensure that cases were attended to were necessary.  If the conducting of an investigation was ordered by the court, the failure to do so would constitute contempt of court. The recommendations made by the Centre were intended to ensure that the mechanisms were in place to ensure the implementation of the DVA.  Many of the issues raised supported an additional Bill for the protection of women and other persons against harassment.

SAPS often did not serve interim protection orders on the respondent, delayed the serving of warrants of arrest and avoided arresting the respondent. Something needed to be put in place to hold SAPS liable when officers failed to carry out their duties because there could be dire consequences for the complainants when this happened. The magistrate should either direct the complainant to the station commissioner of the relevant police station, who should be required to appoint individual members of SAPS members to carry out the responsibility. If SAPS failed to carry out the responsibility as required by the provisions of the DVA, they should be held responsible and steps should be taken against them. SAPS also failed to confiscate firearms and dangerous weapons in the possession of the respondent. In such cases, the respondent continued to be in possession of dangerous weapons and firearms, which posed a continued risk to the complainant. The failure to confiscate weapons from the respondent facilitated further violence and did not protect the woman against further harm or abuse. Magistrates should also be granted the power to order SAPS to confiscate dangerous weapons from respondents.

Some matters concerning the courts and SAPS were closely linked. The SAPS registers recording domestic violence incidences were not completed.  Station commanders should be required to inspect the registers on a regular basis and to ascertain if the officers on duty had carried out their duties as required. Internal procedures should be in place to ensure that all incidents reported were attended to.

The DVA made provision for a member of SAPS to arrest a perpetrator without a warrant of arrest if a complainant approached SAPS with a valid protection order and claimed to be in imminent harm from the respondent. In many cases, the members of SAPS failed to arrest the respondent because they did not understand the meaning of the imminent harm provision. Members of SAPS did not receive adequate training, neglected to carry out their duties or simply did not understand the possible consequences to the complainant if the respondent was not arrested.  The WLC recommended that the definition of imminent harm was expanded and included the factors that had to be taken into account when deciding if a particular circumstance amounted to imminent harm.

Members of SAPS reported that they avoided arresting respondents because they feared that they would be held liable for wrongful arrest. This was not the case in cases involving domestic violence. The police applied their discretionary powers, which took certain factors into account, such as a history of domestic violence.  Because adequate records were not being kept, the history was not recorded.  The WLC felt that the complainant’s statement of a history of domestic violence should be considered sufficient reason for SAPS to arrest the perpetrator. In addition, the nature and the extent of the alleged imminent harm or the possible harm that might be caused as well as the possible consequences to the complainant had to be taken into account.

Ms Sanger reported that the daughter of a client was murdered by her husband because the police had failed to act in accordance with the imminent harm provision of the DVA. The members of SAPS often treated women in a very insensitive manner and the treatment afforded to women by SAPS was worse than what they experienced at the courts. She stressed the importance of adequate, extensive and continuous training in gender consciousness and the importance of supervision over the officials who were responsible for dealing with the women.

SAPS failed to provide or to assist complainants with finding alternative shelter, with collecting their property from a shared residence or a residence where the respondent had access to and to access medical treatment. These duties were included in the provisions of the DVA and the officers concerned should be subject to internal disciplinary procedures for the failure to carry out their duties. The WLC did not propose any specific criminal liability as there were other legal remedies (such as claims for damages) that could be used.

Mr Selau asked if there was a specific imminent harm order.

Ms Sanger replied that there was not a separate type of order but the DVA made provision for circumstances under which members of SAPS could arrest respondents without a warrant of arrest if the complainant was subject to imminent harm. Once there was a protection order in place and the respondent contravened or failed to comply with the conditions as set out in the protection order, the procedure was that the complainant had to approach the court to obtain a warrant of arrest that was signed and issued by a magistrate. However, in cases where the complainant was subject to imminent harm, the police can arrest the respondent without a warrant.

Mr Selau asked if amendments were required to the Police Act as well. His daughter was killed by her boyfriend because she was no longer interested in him. The boyfriend had argued with her for several days and she went to court to obtain a protection order. The boyfriend was not arrested and he continued to be abusive towards her despite the protection order and finally killed her. Although he was prosecuted and was serving a life sentence, his daughter was dead and he would never see her again. He suggested that the provisions of the DVA were reviewed to include the requirement that the respondent was immediately arrested where there was potential for imminent harm to the complainant.

Ms Sanger agreed with Mr Selau’s suggestion and that a corresponding amendment to the Police Act needed to be considered as well.

Mr Selau said that there was a general problem of men harassing, abusing, oppressing and doing all kinds of bad things to women but there were also women doing the same thing to men. The issue of abuse can not only be approached from a gender perspective and members of both sexes needed legal protection. Men had to be part of the solution too.

The Chairperson remarked that an invitation had been issued to interested male parties, for example Men for Change to present submissions at the hearings.

Ms Sanger pointed out that the statistical evidence gathered by organisations dealing with domestic violence on a day-to-day basis indicated that a very small minority of men suffered domestic violence.  Women were the victims in the overwhelming majority of cases. She conceded that violence towards men was taking place and that it was possible that the number of incidents were under-reported because the men concerned were not coming forward. She felt that the focus should remain on women as the victims and survivors of domestic violence because women remained a vulnerable group in our society. She said that the issue was not one of promoting feminism and that it should not be misconstrued as a case where women should be granted more power.

Submission by Thoyando Victim Empowerment (TVE)
Ms F Nicholson said that a number of things could be done to lessen the incidents of domestic violence. The submission from TVE dealt with the system that allowed domestic violence to continue unabated. The good news was that there were plenty of structures in place but these were being abused and perverted and used to protect the wrongdoers instead exposing and putting an end to occurrences of domestic violence.

TVE was established in 2001 and had dealt with over 10 000 cases of domestic violence and sexual assault since that date. The situation would be vastly improved if the mechanisms already in place were implemented. The police force needed adequate training and had to be held accountable for their actions.  Not everything could be blamed on a lack of training. A police officer who was rude to a woman knew very well that he was not allowed to be rude and that he had to open a case. Members of the police were blatantly disregarding the Act, knowing full well that they would not be held accountable.

At the victim empowerment conference held in 2008 in Polokwane, a senior superintendent of police force dressed in his uniform had publicly stated in front of hundreds of people that it could not be expected from the police to open a case of rape for every woman who claimed that she had been raped.  She had to first prove that she was not lying.  All the policemen present endorsed what he had said. The TVE had witnessed over and over that a man was automatically granted bail after he had raped a woman.  This practice was not supposed to occur but that was the reality.

The case of a woman who had laid a charge of rape against a man was presented as an example. The perpetrator threatened to kill the woman he had raped and to burn down her house. When the threats were reported to the police, the officers merely warned the perpetrator to stop making threats and failed to re-arrest him for contravening his bail conditions. On Christmas day, he stabbed her seven times and she died from her wounds. No action was taken against the policemen who had failed in their duty to protect her. In another case, the local clinic referred a five-year old child to the police station when the clinic nurse noticed that the child’s vagina had scars and wounds. The child was examined by two policewomen, who decided that the child had not been raped, refused to open a case and sent her home.  When a policeman decided to intervene in the matter and went to the prosecutor in an attempt to open a case against the perpetrator, the policeman was disciplined and transferred far away from his home.

TVE considered that the major problem was that there was no policy framework in place.  The responsibility was given to the DSD but that Department was not the right one to deal with the issue and had been sitting on the matter for years.  There were no norms and standards for training in place. Some training had taken place but in many cases, the people who had received training were merely those persons who were available at the time to attend the course and not necessarily the officials responsible for dealing with incidents of domestic violence.  No attempt was made to determine the level of knowledge and experience gained or where the gaps in training were.  No effort was made to evaluate the efficacy of a training course of workshop attended by the officers concerned. It had been observed that few trainees bothered to attend the workshops, preferring to remain in their hotel rooms to watch television.  If the training of teachers and doctors was subjected to evaluation, the same could be done for the police. A similar scenario existed in the judicial system, where the gaps in knowledge and the shortage of skills were not being assessed.

TVE attempted to ensure that in a rural area like Thoyando, Government policies and laws were implemented.  Instead, the organisation was labeled anti-Government and accused of working for the opposition.  Instead, Government and the people were being undermined by the non-implementation of the policies and laws. TVE had been ‘blacklisted’ by certain persons to the extent that less than 3% of funding was provided by Government. TVE staff had received death threats and was publicly slandered. TVE appealed to the Committee to approach the different Departments involved. There were rotten apples in every organisation but the Departments should not be judged by a few rotten apples. However, the Departments should not be protected while a member of the public, who came forward to report a police officer, was condemned. The public would not gain trust in the police to report incidents. It was necessary to get the police force to acknowledge that there were some rotten apples in the organisation and to give the commitment to address the undesirable elements in a firm manner.  In this case, the result would be positive the police would win the support of the community. Without community support, no one would be able to end violence of any kind.

One of the most senior local police officers was charged with raping his two children over a number of years. He was granted bail but the mother and the daughters were not informed of this. The two children that had the courage to finally speak out against their father saw him entering the property and approached TVE for assistance.  When TVE contacted the control prosecutor to find out what was going on, he said “what do you mean that they were being traumatised, they have already been traumatised, how can they be more traumatised. If they claimed to be traumatised they had to come and convince him then he would prevent the father from returning to the home.” TVE lodged a complaint against the prosecutor but no action was taken and the organisation was victimised for daring to complain about a prosecutor.

Another example involved a woman who went to the police station with her baby and begged the police to intervene.  She was forced to leave her two sons at home but the police did not do anything. While she was still at the police station, a message was delivered that her husband had killed the two boys with a spade and hacked them to death. The same control prosecutor referred to earlier granted bail on the basis that the man had an “important” job. He was a schoolteacher, who had just hacked two children to death but he was released to return to school, in a town where everybody knew everybody else. The children in the school were traumatised by his continued presence at the school.

TVE emphasised that the structures that were in place had to be properly implemented and that the people responsible had to be held accountable. There was a strategy and a structure in place but the problem was that both should be realigned with the Victim Empowerment Programme. Victim Empowerment volunteers were trained to be lay counselors and were situated in police station, where the abuse by the police was observed. The volunteers reported to the Victim Empowerment Committee, which was composed of representatives from the police and the DSD. The victim empowerment structure made use of free, voluntary labour to provide the statuary services (such as counselling) that Government was supposed to provide. However, the victim empowerment structure was totally ineffective and dangerous because somebody who had undergone training for only two days was not fit to offer a counselling service. The Victim Empowerment Programme refused to acknowledge the weaknesses and did not refer cases that were beyond them to a professional counsellor. For example, a 25 year old man, who had completed two days of lay counselling, was now providing marriage guidance. The Victim Empowerment Programme needed to be realigned to provide the service originally intended and should be removed from the DSD to ensure a more effective reporting system.

When a seven-year old child was raped, the police opened a case of common assault. It was accepted policy in many rural police stations that the onus was on the police stations to reduce the crime statistics. Police openly admitted that cases were not opened and that a financial settlement was negotiated between the abuser and the abused instead. That was one way of reducing the rape statistics. In that particular case, TVE had traced the child so that the case could be followed up only to discover that a charge of common assault had been laid instead of the rape of a child. When the station commander was asked to comment, he explained that the assault charge was laid for purposes of promotion and the policeman concerned was promoted instead of being disciplined. The Victim Empowerment Committee (VEC) was aware of the case and the coordinator admitted that she was present when the child was brought in. TVE asked the coordinator if she was aware that a case of rape was not opened and she admitted that she knew that such a charge was not laid. When asked what she had done about the matter, she reacted with shock and indignation.  The husband of the coordinator was a policeman at the same station. The VEC was comprised of policemen and social workers but they were all protecting each other and did not allow volunteers to have access to the victims.

The structure that was in place was under-funded and was situated in the wrong place. There was a lot of money available at the United Nations office on drugs and crime to promote victim empowerment. TVE was advised to refrain from mentioning advocacy or oversight as the duty of victim empowerment volunteers and was told to leave that issue alone.  It was necessary to reassess the role of the VEP because it had the potential to mobilise oversight by the citizenry and to ensure that policies were implemented.  The organisation had to be structured in such a way that the volunteers were not obliged to pander to others while people continued to be abused. The volunteers were supposed to provide support for the victims.  When a woman or a child came to a police station because she had been gang-raped, beaten up by her husband or had a gun put to her head, she was not in a state to remember her rights, even if she knew her rights.  It was the function of the victim empowerment volunteer to ensure that the woman’s rights were respected.  As the process of empowerment progressed, the victim might be able to stand up for herself but she needed the assistance of the volunteer when she was still in a state of shock and suffering severe trauma.

TVE requested the Committee to review the mandate of the VEP.  The Victims Charter was launched after seven years on the drawing board and TVE was informed that more money was made available for the launch of the Victims Charter to Parliament than the total amount allocated to teach all the people of South Africa about the Victims Charter. People needed to know their rights and victimised, traumatised women and men needed to have somebody there to assist them during those initial traumatic moments.

The Chairperson advised that all the submissions made by individuals would be pooled together.  A few emergency cases would be reported to the respective service providers for immediate action.  As soon as the submissions made by groups or organisations were received, a report would be compiled for the Committee.  The Committee would then proceed to consider the issues that were prevalent on a national basis and arrange to meet with the various Government Departments for further discussion.  She expected that the initial process would be completed before Parliament went into recess on 12 December 2009. She thanked everyone who had made a contribution and who had made submissions over the previous two days.  She said that everyone had made a valuable contribution to a very worthwhile cause.

The proceedings were adjourned


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