Domestic Violence Act implementation: Department of Justice briefing

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

15 February 2012
Chairperson: Ms B Mabe (ANC, Gauteng), Ms D Ramodibe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJCD) briefed the Portfolio and Select Committees, sitting jointly, on progress made towards the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act of 1998. It also highlighted the legislative frameworks put in place by Government and its role in dealing with gender-based violence and domestic violence. The provisions of the Constitution and relevant international protocols to address these issues were outlined. Members were then informed of the management and governance structures put in place to deal with the implementation challenges of programmes and initiatives relating to domestic and gender-based violence, noting that many of these were inter-sectorial. The DoJCD cited its successes as including the establishment of governance structures to ensure a coordinated response and joint monitoring of performance. It had managed to introduce, and have accredited, a Family Law Practice Learnership programme. It had developed a braille booklet, and put in place an integrated case management system to enable the tracking of domestic violence cases from entry till finalisation, as well as process maps that specified the individual and collective role of each role-player. It had also developed Personalised Safety Plans for victims and survivors of domestic violence, whilst Legal Aid South Africa offered free legal services to victims. A summary of identified challenges and mitigation measures was then given, highlighting the current absence of a co-ordinated strategy in implementation, which was being addressed through the drafting of the Integrated Domestic Violence Strategy by the JCPS Domestic Violence Task Team. DoJCD was also coordinating the drafting of a Domestic Violence Prevention Strategy to mitigate the current lack of norms and standards in addressing domestic violence, throughout the chain, and was trying to concentrate on more preventative initiatives. The regulations needed to be updated, and guidelines were being drafted for clerks of the Domestic Violence courts. One ongoing problem was that applicants were still intimidated despite the fact that they had obtained protection orders. About 54% of domestic violence cases were also withdrawn, in most cases because of the continued reliance of the victim for financial support on the perpetrator. There was a need to train all roleplayers in the system, including clerks of court, magistrates and police and although this was being attended to, there were still shortfalls in the training. Victim Empowerment Programmes, a Victim Empowerment Management Forum and Gender-based Violence Courts were being set up. Both the judiciary and police officials were being trained. Inefficiencies in the referral and follow-up mechanisms were addressed through the development of referral mechanisms such as the Provincial VEP Forums in 2011. Rehabilitation and training programmes were also initiated with the Departments of Correctional Services, and Social Development, to facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders. DoJCD was in the process of enhancing its Service Charter. It was noted that 32 463 cases had been reported between 2009 and 2011, but 17 835 (54.9%) were withdrawn. Despite the challenges, the DoJCD maintained that there were improvements in the treatment of victims.

Members asked questions around the future long term strategy of the Department, the availability at all courts of legislation in all languages, after-hour services and specific initiatives in the rural areas and the proportion of the budget that was allocated to administration costs. Members expressed concern at the high rates of withdrawal of DV cases, exclusion of rural communities, inefficiencies in criminal prosecution and misclassification of cases by police. They also questioned how the braille booklet was listed as a success, when it had not yet been printed or distributed. Whilst they noted that legislation prior to 2000 was not automatically costed, they also expressed concerns about the lack of costing and the paucity of initiatives for people with disabilities. They sought clarity on the monitoring of CCTVs in the courts, the number of cases processed by Legal Aid, compensation for victims of domestic violence. They noted that timeframes were needed for the implementation of the initiatives. Members also enquired whether the DoJCD had itself conducted any studies on the withdrawal, other factors, and had evaluated the Integrated Case Management System. They suggested that a combined meeting be set up with all Departments to map out a comprehensive strategy for addressing domestic violence, and this should include lobbying at the United Nations, and sourcing of funds from municipalities to address upgrading of courts. They also requested written information on the breakdown of cases by districts, where shelters were set up, and figures for initiatives in the provinces, as well as details of monitoring and disciplinary systems to ensure compliance.

Meeting report

Domestic Violence Act implementation: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development briefing
Ms Nonkuleko Sindane, Director General, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development stated that the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster was mandated to achieve Outcome 3 of the Priorities of Government - namely that all people within South Africa felt and were safe. The JCPS Cluster had put in place various governance structures, including the JCPS Domestic Violence Task Team, chaired by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJCD), the Inter-sectoral Steering Committee on Sexual Offences, chaired by DoJCD, the Joint Task Team on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI ) Intervention Strategy, chaired by DoJCD; Interdepartmental Management Team on Sexual Offences, chaired by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA); and the Victim Empowerment Management Forum, chaired by the National Department of Social Development (DSD).

She summarised the key international protocols, as well as those from the African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) that had been ratified by the Government, and that assisted in the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) (see attached presentation for full details). South Africa’s Constitution, in sections 9, 10, 11 and 12, provided the baseline for the
fight against gender based and domestic violence.

Ms Sindane provided an overview of the
various initiatives that had been implemented. She reported on statistics for the management of domestic violence cases at court and community level. 900 Victim-friendly rooms were in operation at SAPS service points, countrywide.  The Department also facilitated the establishment of 27 fully operational and 25 partially operational Thuthuzela Care Centres. 385 Magistrates’ Courts were classified as Domestic Violence Courts in terms of section 1 of the DVA.  The Department of Social Development had established 60 shelters countrywide for victims of Domestic Violence, as well as 42 Places of Safety and 254 Children’s Homes for children in need of care and protection.

Legal Aid South Africa (LASA) was providing tax-funded toll-free legal advice to indigent persons in civil matters, including domestic violence cases. The grant also extended to children and LGBTI persons in Equality Courts.
At the court level the Department had also established 224 Child Witness Testifying Rooms, 324 CCTV- fitted courtrooms and 49 One-Way Mirror-fitted courtrooms.

Practical interventions by the JCPS cluster included increase in visibility and sensitivity of police regarding issues of domestic violence (DV). Police were receiving training through a five day Domestic Violence Learning programme. NPA introduced the training of prosecutors by the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs (SOCA) Unit, and the Ndabezitha training program for Traditional Leaders. 20 496 victims were assisted at the Thuthuzela sites during 2010/11.

Ms Sindane stressed that other causes of DV, such as unemployment, lack of education, social grants, infrastructure, transport and lack of hospital care were not in the domain of the JCPS cluster and required a multi-cluster approach.

Notable successes in implementation of the Act included the establishment of governance structures that ensured a coordinated response, and the joint monitoring of performance. South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) had accredited a Family Law Practise Learnership programme. The development of a braille booklet on domestic violence was regarded as a significant milestone in ensuring that access to justice was also made available to the blind community. In addition, DoJCD had developed an Integrated Case Management System to track DV cases from entry up to the time each case was finalised, and had also developed process maps for role players, specifying their specific roles. Personalised Safety Plans for victims and survivors of DV enabled victims to take action in strengthening their own protection and security.

Various challenges and mitigating measures were highlighted.  The Cluster lacked a co-ordinated strategy for implementation, but this was being addressed through the drafting of the Integrated Domestic Violence Strategy by the JCPS Domestic Violence Task Team. The team consisted of the DoJCD, NPA, LASA, DSD, the Department of Health and the judiciary. The Departments of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Transport and Human Settlements could be invited to attend as well.

Another identified challenge included the need for the
development of norms and standards to address domestic violence through the chain, starting with prevention right and addressing the consequences of domestic violence. In this regard, DoJCD was co-ordinating the drafting of a Domestic Violence Prevention Strategy. South African Police Service (SAPS) had also issued national instructions on procedures to be taken. The judiciary had adopted guidelines for the management of DV cases. DoJCD was also in the process of updating the regulations on Domestic Violence as well as drafting guidelines for clerks of the Domestic Violence Courts.

DoJCD also identified a lack of monitoring mechanisms as another challenge. To mitigate this, the Department  DoJCD had established governance and monitoring frameworks, including the JCPS Domestic Violence Task Team, the Victim Empowerment Programme Management Forum and the Gender-based violence Council. Inefficiencies in the referral and follow-up mechanisms were addressed by JCPS partners having developing referral mechanisms such as the Provincial VEP Forums in 2011.

The continued violence and intimidation of applicants, even where they had obtained
domestic violence protection orders, was to be addressed through the development of a Safety Planning Tool, in conjunction with NPA. In addition, the Department had embarked on an intensified programme to raise awareness.

Various initiatives were also introduced to address the severe impact which DV had on children, the elderly, mentally and physically disabled. These included coordinated efforts through the implementation of the
Children’s Act, the Child Justice Act, and Older Persons Act. In addition, the Victim Empowerment Management Forum and DSD were assisting with shelters and social support to victims of domestic violence from these vulnerable groups.

Another challenge lay with the lack of training of various role players such as c
lerks of the Court, magistrates and SAPS members. DoJCD had therefore intensified operational training of clerks, magistrates, prosecutors and other Cluster staff. The Department had trained 347 clerks from 2010 to 2012. Through the assistance of the Justice College and the South African Judicial Education Institute, the Department was able to train the judiciary in matters relating to Domestic Violence. The Department, in partnership with NPA, also implemented training on the SAQA- accredited course referred to earlier. In addition, SAPS had dedicated training programmes relating to gender based violence and DV, and had trained 5 649 police in 2009/10, and 4 118 police in 2010/11, through courses on domestic violence, sexual offences and victim empowerment.

The Central Drug Authority (CDA) had been established in order to mitigate the impact of alcohol abuse as a trigger of DV.

Significant changes had been introduced to improve the provision of services for disabled victims, such as the provision of
sign language interpretation services, fitting ramps into court buildings and the development of awareness material in braille.

DoJCD, the Department of Correctional Services and DSD had initiated various programmes for the rehabilitation of offenders. These included programmes on anger management, substance abuse and life skills.

In order to improve on service delivery DoJCD was in the process of enhancing its Service Charter.

Ms Sindane then summarised the findings of a ten year research review of the implementation of the DVA. The Domestic Violence Micro-Study had been initiated to determine
the impact of the policies, procedures and systems developed for the implementation of this Act within the courts. A significant finding of the study was that the non-costing of the Act prior to implementation was a major contributor to the inefficiencies identified within the criminal justice system.  The study also estimated that R38 million per annum was used in the processing of applications for protection orders.

She concluded that although there were admitted challenges
on implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, all the JCPS Cluster strategies and activities relating to fighting gender-based and domestic violence had started to deliver positive results. A recent Victims of Crime Survey by Statistics South Africa, published in November 2011, indicated that victims of crime were beginning to see some results in the fight against crime and major improvements in the treatment of victims.

Finally, she highlighted that of the total of 32 463 reported cases in the period, 17 825 (54.9%) were withdrawn, largely because many victims remained financially dependent on the perpetrator.

Mr G Mokgoro (ANC, Northern Cape) asked what strategy was put in place by DoJCD to address the alarming rates of DV.

Ms Sindane replied that DoJCD had chosen a Multi Sectorial Approach though the JCPS Cluster to map out a more comprehensive strategy. Input from the cluster partners had been essential in alerting the Department of amendments that were needed to the legislation. DoJCD was working with non governmental organisations (NGOs), community based organisations (CBOs) and traditional leaders in the Ndabezitha training programme, to try to find a solution that incorporated input from grassroots levels. In addition, DoJCD was working on the Integrated Social Crime Prevention Strategy, and this strategy would be presented to Members after it had been considered by Cabinet.

Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked what measures had been put in place for rural people.

Ms Sindane noted that courts were still placed in inner cities and townships, but periodical courts were being introduced to try to compensate in the rural areas whilst DoJCD was also building new courts in those areas.

Ms Ditshetelo asked for more information on the braille booklet, and why it was listed as a success.

Adv Praise Kambula, Chief Director: Promotion of the Rights of Vulnerable Groups, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, replied that a study report showed that the majority of disabled people were blind, and this booklet was aimed at assisting them. The booklet must still be printed and distributed.

Members expressed dissatisfaction that this booklet should be listed as a success when it had not yet been fully implemented.

Ms H Lamoela (DA) asked if specific printers had been identified.

Ms Kambula replied that this could be done at National level.

Ms Ditshetelo asked more clarification of the statistics and trend graph on criminal prosecutions between 2009 and 2011.She also stressed that the acronyms should be explained. She asked the reasons behind the high withdrawal rates of DV cases.

Adv Kambula replied that there was a huge gap in the legislation since prosecutors were not limited to withdrawing charges of DV unless they had first obtained the permission of senior prosecutor. In addition, the legislation did not create one specific offence of “Domestic Violence”, which made it difficult to collect statistics. These were cited as amongst the reasons for the proposed amendments.

Ms Ditshetelo asked for mechanisms put in place to address inefficiencies in criminal prosecution.

Ms Sindane replied that the Department was drafting the Integrated Case Management System.

Ms Lamoela asked if the DVA, in all eleven languages, could be found at each court.

Ms Sindane replied that each court tried to have copies available copies in the predominating language in the area. It was very expensive to have copies in all eleven languages.

Ms Lamoela asked if there were after hour services and rosters in police stations in rural areas.

Ms Sindane replied that the question could be most appropriately responded to by the SAPS. However, a written response could be given to Members after discussing the matter with SAPS.

Ms Lamoela asked what proportion of the budget went to administration costs.

Ms Sindane replied that the larger proportion of the budget was allocated to court services and court infrastructure. The budget for DV was allocated along with that of vulnerable groups, which included sexual offences, child justice, restorative justice and maintenance.

Ms Lamoela asked if consideration had been given to developing a compensation strategy for victims of DV.

Ms Sindane replied that currently the only victims that were compensated through legislation were road accident victims.
Ms Lamoela commented that DoJCD had to consider funding from municipalities for projects such as building ramps, which should be derived from the municipalities’ local budgets.

Ms Lamoela asked for a breakdown of DV cases at magistrate courts and municipal level.

Adv J Mbamali, Senior Legal Advisor: Court Services, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, replied the statistics could be sent through in writing.

Ms Lamoela asked about the challenges in numbers and efficiency, of implementing officers such as social workers.

Ms Sindane replied that there were not enough implementers but DoJCD would try to maximise what it had, to ensure that the justice system was operating smoothly.

Ms Lamoela suggested that oversight visits were necessary to monitor progress on implementation of the projects.

Ms Lamoela asked for a breakdown of implementation at provincial level.

Ms Sindane noted that the information could be provided in writing.

Ms Lamoela asked for the timeframes for the implementation strategies, as well as for the amendments.

Ms Sindane replied that time lines would be provided in writing.

Ms Lamoela commented that the problem of DV required a multi-sectorial approach, so all role players and stakeholders needed to have a combined meeting to map out a strategy.

Ms Lamoela commented on the need to have costings done for the implementation process.

A Departmental representative stated that legislation passed prior 2000 did not have any costings done in advance.

Ms E More (DA) asked whether monitoring systems and disciplinary measures were put in place to ensure that implementers adhered to procedures.
Ms More asked whether DoJCD had done any micro-study into the reasons for the high percentage of withdrawal of cases. She noted that this could be the result of secondary victimisation where the victims were ill-treated by the police officers.

Ms More asked whether an evaluation had been done on the Integrated Case Management System, to check if it was producing the intended outcomes. She also asked if DoJCD had a client complaints mechanism in place.

Ms Sindane replied that at the moment DoJCD was not conducting Performance Surveys.

Ms More commented that once-off training was not adequate to bring about changes. There was a need for continuous training, monitoring and evaluation of the behaviour of the participants, which the victims also should be able to notice and experience.

Ms Sindane replied that discussions were taking place with the Justice College to assess participants before the training, during the course and a final assessment by their managers to identify if there had been a substantial change in awareness. There was on-going training on the job and once-off training whenever new legislation was to be implemented.

Ms More noted that the finding of the micro-study could not be used as a benchmark as the Act had not been costed.

Mr D Kekana (ANC) commented that very little mention was made, either in relation to the international protocols, or this presentation, of people with disabilities and specific initiatives for them.

Ms Sindane replied that DoJCD took matters of disability very seriously. However, the current funding did not allow for more initiatives to make the courts more disability-friendly. DoJCD had shown its commitment through the stretching of the allocated R80 million to the development of ramps in existing courts countrywide.

Mr Kekana commented that DoJCD should lobby at the United Nations to bring more attention to the underlying causes, including poverty and unemployment. The Act was only treating the symptoms, and not the core issues, around DV.

Ms Sindane replied that she could take up this suggestion with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

Ms C Blaai (COPE) asked if the communities were aware of the free services and the number of cases annually and monthly that Legal Aid had resolved.

Ms Cordelia Robinson, Executive, LASA, replied that Legal Aid currently had 64 Justice Centres and 64 satellite offices in rural areas across the country. It also provided additional services through a call centre and community outreaches, where paralegals at the Justice Centres would go out to visit communities. LASA had also established links with NGOs and CBOs to reach to the communities. It also advertised its services on national television. In 2010/2011, 400 000 new cases were reviewed, of which 7% were civil work.

Ms Blaai asked if the CCTVs in the court room were monitored, since there were instances of security violations.

Ms Sindane responded that she was referring to CCTVs in correctional facilities, where evidence could be recorded without people having to be present in court. There was physical security in the courts, but there was a need to tighten this.

Ms D Ranto, (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked if DoJCD was aware that in many cases the police misclassified cases, which was a possible reason for the decline in incidents reported.

Ms Sindane conceded that while wrong classifications occurred, this was usually a mistake due to lack of training.

Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) asked about the working relationship between SAPS and the DoJCD. The bail system in many cases revealed inconsistencies and lack of harmony between the two departments.

Ms Sindane replied that DoJCD preferred to see incarceration as an option of last resort, to avoid exacerbating the problems in correctional centres that were already overcrowded. It was hoped that the Integrated Justice Management System would address some of these misunderstandings.

Ms Nxumalo asked for information on the location of shelters. She was disappointed to hear that there were only 60 across the country.

Ms Sindane replied that the information would be provided in writing.

Ms More asked if DoJCD had a human resources strategy in place.

Ms Sindane replied that it did, and this had been costed and highlighted what skills were available and not available at the Department. This strategy also had to speak to the topology and demographics of the country.

The meeting was adjourned.


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