SAPS response to Committee Questions; Domestic Violence & Sexual Offences: Department of Justice purported response rejected by Committee

NCOP Women, Children and People with Disabilities

14 August 2013
Chairperson: Ms B Mabe (ANC, Gauteng)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson reminded Members, at the outset, that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (the Department) had been requested, at an earlier meeting, to provide a response to several specific questions asked by the Committee, which were also fully set out in a letter to the Department, and this meeting was an opportunity to hear the responses.

The Department tabled a presentation, noting legal framework around gender based violence, and noting that there were a number of specific task forces, within the Departments or Ministries of Justice and Constitutional Development, Police and Social Development, that provided services for victims of gender-based violence. The Department of Justice became involved at judicial level, and the presentation described the fact that there were currently some courts dedicated to sexual offences matters, and gave a list of where they were situated and their personnel, specific services and physical resources. The 2011 to 2013 statistics for prosecutions were set out. She then noted that the Department had obtained additional budget specifically for 22 dedicated sexual offences courts, and there were other allocations to other sexual offences services, victim support, domestic violence campaigns, court-based support services, and research, over the next three years. The research aimed to determine a national strategy for better prevention, to examine violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans gender individuals, and research into the nature and prevalence of cultural and religious practices that were harmful to women or undermined their equality, and specific case studies in KwaZulu Natal, as well as a study on the achievements and shortcomings of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act. The Department had concluded that there was a need to re-establish dedicated Sexual Offences Courts, but recognised and was trying to avoid the flaws in planning and implementation that hindered the success of the previous attempts. Twenty two dedicated courts were to be put in operation, in addition to the dedicated One Stop centres and SAPS units. These would be designated as such, and be regional courts. Other “hybrid” courts that may hear sexual offences matters were also to be resourced and set up.

The Chairperson allowed the presentation to run its course but said it was unacceptable, because it had not answered a single question that was posed to the Department. For this reason, she stated that there was no point in engaging further with the Department and requested that it study the letter from the Committee, and formulate specific answers to each of the questions raised.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson noted that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (the Department or DoJ&CD) had been asked to attend this meeting to present answers to a number of questions  posed by the Committee Members earlier this year, which were set out in a formal document conveyed to the Department.
The Chairperson commented that the presentation and documents were not at par with the level of professionalism of Parliament. There were inaccurate statements made at the beginning of the document.

Mr G Mokgoro (ANC, Northern Cape) stated that this was not a small mistake, especially since the Department was sent away last time due to an insufficient presentation. This time around, the first sentence alone contained incorrect information and as such the presentation was not possible to be correct. There was so much outcry regarding the inefficiency and recklessness of the police but there was no proper representation of the people. The Committee felt as though it was treated as school children that were not knowledgeable.

South African Police Service (SAPS) – Department of Police Response to Committee Questions
The SAPS provided responses to the Committee with regards to the submitted questions. Questions one and two were on budgeting for crime investigation, in particular for detective services for domestic violence and sexual offence cases as well as the follow up on these cases.
The SAPS indicated that the Detective Division and Detective Services within the provinces received an annual budget for the investigation of all crimes and as such, SAPS was unable to provide a specific figure for only domestic violence and sexual offence cases. As for the follow up of crimes, it was indicated that SAPS was unsure what was meant by follow up as it was not responsible for any counselling or any other form of assistance. In response to question three on specialist detectives, as of 31 March 2013, 933 members were trained on the Sexual Offences course and were dispersed amongst the 176 Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units (FCS) across the many police stations. It was important to note that all stations had access to specialist detectives. In response to the fourth question on trauma and victim empowerment rooms, the SAPS replied that it used Victim Friendly Rooms (VFR) rather than trauma rooms. These rooms were intended to provide support as well as a private and comfortable space for the victims. Currently, the SAPS had 873 operational VFRs available at police service points. For the 2013/2014 financial year, a total of R11 million was allocated towards the placement of 22 VFR facilities. The successful implementation of this program was largely dependent on the availability of funding.

Mr D Worth (DA, Free State) interjected and asked what the difference was between VFRs and FCS Units and why the latter was even mentioned.

The SAPS replied that the FCS units were the detective units that were specialised. This document was a summary of were the VFRs were placed and some were at these Units.

The SAPS reported that several of the questions posted by the Committee covered the topic of education and training. In particular questions were asked regarding the number of new and existing staff that would be trained on the Domestic Violence Act, the frequency of refresher courses, if the training was accredited as well as what the Domestic Violence Learning Programme entailed. (Refer to the attached for answers to other questions that were raised.

Mr Mokgoro asked SAPS to indicate what results were achieved from this process. Was there any progress made from all these exercises?

The SAPS replied that crimes such as these were also the priority of the National Commissioner. There were stations where members were trained, however, not all stations behaved exactly as they were expected to. Despite this, there was great improvement made from the side of SAPS with regards to the Act (from a subjective lens). The Divison of Training and the Division Inspectorate and identified certain gaps where there was a need for development.

Mr Worth asked what assurance there was with regards to sexual offenders’ register. There was an experience in KwaZulu-Natal where there was no separate register for the sexual offence, which made it rather difficult to ascertain where these cases were taking places and also difficult to monitor what was going on in terms of action to deal with domestic violence.

The SAPS replied that the national instruction on domestic violence made it an obligation for a police station to have two separate registers. The first register was for the members of the community where the domestic violence was and the second register was for members themselves that were involved in a domestic violence case. However, as Mr Worth indicated that were some stations that did not follow this practice.

Ms A Qikani (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked why there was no VFRs in the FCS Unit in Gauteng, Free State, KZN and North West provinces. What were the plans to deal with this in these areas?

The SAPS replied that some of the FCS Units were currently placed in these areas but were still in the early stages and were simply trying to find a place for the Units. Victims were able to use other facilities at the police stations. Based on the allocated budget for 2013/14, 22 VFRs were worked out to be placed in the nine provinces according to the following breakdown: four in KZN, two in Limpopo, four in Mpumalanga, four in the Northern Cape, two in the Eastern Cape and in the Northwest. This was a multi-year plan lasting until 2017. The long term was to put in a full structure for the VFRs.

A member asked why there was an increase in domestic violence. Was the SAPS working with organisations to properly research and analyse this?

The SAPS replied that the causes varied from one province to another. There were some areas were it was understood by community members that domestic violence was unacceptable; however, there were some indigenous areas where those matters were not raised with the police. However, there was no real research conducted on this topic and as such, it was difficult to speculate what the causes were. It was also difficult to differentiate between whether the issue was escalating due to increased incidences of domestic violence or whether there was an increase in reporting.

Mr Worth addressed the issue of gender representivity within SAPS and asked if there was a female officer at every station. How were DNA samples conducted effectively? Did the SAPS keep reports kept of the DNA samples that were taken?

The SAPS replied that if a victim did not find a female police officer at the station, then they were taken to the VFR and a FCS member was asked to tend to the victim as they had specialised training. With regards to DNA, it was taken as part of the evidence and was recorded in order to keep track.

The Chairperson stated that more questions were to be sent in writing.

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development Briefing
Ms P Kamtoula, Director: Corporate Services, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, tabled a slide presentation. She began by illustrating the legal framework around gender based violence, setting out a list of national and international laws that attempted to address the problem of gender based violence. There were a number of specific task forces that provided for victims of gender based violence. These included the National Council on Gender-based Violence (GBV), the Ministerial Advisory Task Team on the Adjudication of Sexual Offences matters, and the National Intersectoral Committee on Domestic Violence. There was also legislation that established Committees that were responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act and the Sexual Offences Legislation.

The second part of her presentation looked at service delivery. The DoJ&CD would become involved at the judicial level, and there were a number of different courts, all over South Africa, to address the specific needs of women and children. She detailed the structure of the courts and the number of personnel dedicated to dealing with and addressing issues of gender based violence and sexual crimes (see attached presentation for full details). She also added that there were bespoke services provided by the justice system, including sign language, foreign language interpretations, braille public education material, and audio visual educational material, all of which focused on domestic violence and sexual offences education.

Ms Kamtoula set out further slides that set out an accounting of all the physical resources that the DoJ&CD had in each province. These resources included closed circuit televisions (CCTV), one-way mirrors and testifying rooms. There were currently 322 CCTVs, 98 one-way mirrors and 220 testifying rooms.

Ms Kamtoula then provided some of the statistics that DoJ&CD has accrued on the prosecution of cases where women and children had been abused. In 2011/2012, there were 14 741 new cases where women and children were involved. Out of these, 1 097 cases were finalised, 3 017 were struck off the roll and 9 000 were still outstanding. In 2012/2013 an additional 10 806 cases had been reported and were in the process of being resolved.

The statistics by the DoJ&CD indicated that Gauteng had the highest rate of new cases relating to sexual offences. Ms Kamtoula indicated that from the beginning of 2012 up until May 2013, Gauteng had reported 2 433 new sexual offences cases. The Eastern Cape reported 1 425 and Kwa Zulu Natal reported 1 392 new cases involving only sexual offences.

In terms of domestic violence Gauteng remained the highest, with 48 825 new cases, whilst the Western Cape reported 47 105 new cases, and Kwa Zulu Natal reported 41 239 new cases.

Ms Kamtoula then took the Committee through the budget allocations from 2013 to 2015. The amount of R22 million had been allocated to the 22 dedicated sexual offences courts, R7 million has been allocated to other sexual offences services and R10 million would be allocated to victim support services, over a three year term. Additionally, Ms Kamtoula explained that R4 million would be provided to run domestic violence campaigns and R10 million would be spent on domestic violence court-based support services.

DoJ&CD has allocated R300 000 towards research into domestic violence. The research would determine a national strategy on better preventing domestic violence, especially in provinces where there was a high level of violence perpetuated against women.

In addition, the sum of R350 000 was specifically set aside for research that would address violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans gender (LGBTI) individuals. Moreover, R349 000 was given to the Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action project. The campaign was intended to build the capacity of lesbian, bisexual and gender-variant women in urban townships, through art based mediums. The campaign hoped to deepen the understanding of the relationship between violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, bisexual, and gender-variant women, and the cultural and religious beliefs that underpinned their experiences.

Ms Kamtoula then listed a number of specific interventions that would be receiving funding. A study on the viability of using a cell phone game on sexual offences to educate adolescents received R250 000. A feasibility study to re-establish the sexual offences courts received R700 000. Research on the use of anatomically correct dolls received R150 000, and research on the specialised services for victims of sexual offences received R250 000.

Ms Kamtoula then went on to explain the spending on research interventions. The Women’s Legal Centre received R350 000 to conduct research on the nature and prevalence of cultural and religious practices that were harmful to women and undermined women’s equality. A campaign called ‘Project Power’ was aiming to produce a study outlining women’s experiences with traditional authorities in the Ndumo area in Kwa Zulu Natal, and this had received R350 000. The Legal Resource Centre received R350 000 to conduct research on the achievements and shortcomings of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act.

Ms Kamtoula then went into some of the findings of the research study into the re-establishment of the Sexual Offences courts. Firstly, this study had emphasised that there were sufficient grounds for the re-establishment of the Sexual Offences Courts. These courts were in line with the ethos of the objects of the Criminal Law Amendment Act No 32 of 2007, which sought to afford complainants in sexual offences matters the maximum and least traumatising protection. She also highlighted that the
re-establishment of the Sexual Offences Court would reinforce the establishment of a victim-centred court system, that should be prompt, responsive and effective. South Africa was at the forefront of developments with respect to specialised Sexual Offences courts that adopted a victim centred approach. However, the lack of a dedicated budget for the establishment of these courts was the major contributor to their low visibility in rural communities.

When the Sexual Offences courts had initially been established, there were several inherent flaws and there were no properly structured implementation plans, nor was an all-inclusive consultative approach taken in certain areas. Because there were no enabling statutory provisions for the establishment of Sexual Offences Courts, this had not made for a uniform approach to their establishment and operation, and the DoJ&CD had also received too little support from other stakeholders.

Ms Kamtoula stated that there were currently dedicated Sexual Offences Courts in operation nationwide, and their existence represented an ongoing endeavour by the Department to establish and maintain a victim-centred approach to the adjudication of sexual offences cases. In addition to this, there were other coordinated specialised or dedicated victim support services, and One Stop centres, such as the National Prosecuting Authority’s Thuthuzela Care Centres, the Department of Social Development Khuseleka One stop Centres, and the South African Police Service’s Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences units (FCS), which were established mainly to reduce secondary victimisation and improve services within the criminal justice system.

The DoJ&CD had a number of recommendations to make. It maintained that dedicated sexual offences courts must be re-established or set up in a number of selected sites. These courts should be defined as regional courts that dealt exclusively with sexual offences matters. However, over and above these, it was also supporting the establishment of “hybrid” courts for the adjudication of sexual offences in any specific area.

Linked to this was the recommendation that the DoJ&CD must give priority to the immediate upgrading of the 57 regional courts. The upgrading would be done taking into account available resources, and must commence in the 2013-2014 financial year. The rest of the identified regional courts must be progressively resourced into sexual offences courts over a period of ten years, from April 2015.

Ms Kamtoula stressed that the DoJ&CD had been able to secure a dedicated and adequate budget from the National Treasury to realise the speedy establishment of the courts. However, she did point out that the provision of specialised services was cost intensive, and therefore believed that political support was required to ensure appropriate budget allocations.

The DoJ&CD also noted that there was a need to put into operation legislation that provided for the establishment of specific Sexual Offences courts and related matters. However, the DoJ&CD was insistent that what action was taken to establish the Sexual Offences Courts should not delay the establishment of the 57 regional courts.

There was a recommendation that in the meantime, the regional courts should be designated as Sexual Offences Courts, by the Chief Justice, in consultation with the Minister. This would ensure that immediate relief services were brought to the victims, to improve the justice sector’s response to the rising level of sexual violence in South Africa.

The Chairperson noted the presentation, but also stated that the Department had not answered a single specific question as set out in the document that the Committee had sent to the Department a month ago. This was unacceptable. She said that there was no point in the Committee engaging further with the Department. She requested that the Department must go back and study the document from the Committee, and then come back and address the Members with specific answers to the questions asked, in a coherent and direct way. She asked that the Department respond to the questions sent to them in writing by the end of the following business day.

Mr Worth referred to the 2012 statistics and asked if only 51 offenders that were found guilty as outlined in the document? What did ‘disposable cases’ refer to?

Ms Kamtoula replied that in 2012/13 it was 4699 that were found guilty. The cases that were disposed included those that were finalised with a verdict. 

The meeting was adjourned.


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