The Portfolio Committees on Police and Women in the Presidency met jointly for the second of a two-day special focus on the Domestic Violence Act and crimes against women and children. Minister of Police, Mr Bheki Cele, was present.
The SA Police Service (SAPS) presented on the progress made by the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Unit. The presentation covered the establishment of the FCS units, status of the establishment of the FCS units, status of the Establishment of Serial and Electronic Crime Investigations (SECI), Status of Forensic Social Work Service (FSW), performance indicators, first quarter performance for the 2018/2019 financial year and additional Performance Information
SAPS also presented on crimes against women and children in SA from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018. The presentation covered crimes against women nationally and provincially in terms of murder, attempted murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, common assault, sexual offences (rape, attempted sexual offences and sexual assault). This overview was also provided for crimes against children including murder, attempted murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, common assault, sexual offences (rape, attempted sexual offences and sexual assault).
The Civilian Secretariat for Police (CSP) addressed crimes against women and children in terms of policies to reduce barriers to reporting on sexual offences and domestic violence, policy goals, understanding the barriers and their impact. The presentation also covered strategic priorities, addressing serial rape and serial murder, an integrated approach, implementation plan for the White Paper on Safety and Security, the Domestic Violence Act and sexual offences and trafficking in persons.
Members were concerned about the vacancies in the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Units and questioned what caused these delays. Members asked if victims in rural and urban areas received equal treatment when it comes to handling of cases, SAPS capacity to deal with cases from years ago, charges of domestic violence withdrawn and training of SAPS members to interact with people. There was a concern of the trafficking of women and children, the endemic nature of violence in society and if there were enough SAPS members to prevent this crime. Other questions were posed on the priority implementation of the White Paper, legislation not finalised, catering for people with disabilities, pocketbooks and the need for an inter-sectoral approach.
The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) then briefed Members on violence against women in terms of sexual and physical violence against women, challenges, triggers in the youth sector, challenge sin the youth sector, implications and recommendations.
The CRL Rights Commissions presented on challenges in the cultural, religious and healing sector as per the Domestic Violence Act, challenges between the CRL Rights Commission and SAPS and recommendations.
COSATU and POPCRU provided comments on the rate of femicide in South Africa, statistics, recommendations for SAPS, the courts and legislation and focus groups and areas requiring attention.
Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust briefed the Committees on its collection of complaints, the nature of complaints, why this was important and how it can be addressed.
Members were concerned by what the presentations brought to the fore but emphasised the need for a society-wide approach instead of placing the responsibility for dealing with society-wide matters solely at the door of the police. Consultative programmes should involve various role-players. It was said the problem was patriarchy which oppresses women. Patriarchy manifests itself in cultural practices. The Committees asked if an increase in violent attacks was noticed, unequal treatment of men and women in the courts and youth gangsterism. Members said violence in society was caused by a lack of hope and depression which must be tackled urgently. Government must ensure funds were available where it was required. There must be a stronger justice system. Police members must be better trained in order to build trust. The police should expressly inform rape victims of their rights. The police should make it easier for members of the public to report crimes e.g. via establishing SMS hotlines. SAPS should also not always rely on Parliament and other bodies to implement policies.
The Chairperson noted that item three on the agenda for the day, address by the Deputy Minister of Police, would not take place as the Deputy Minister was attending a march in Pretoria on behalf of the Minister.
The Co-chair, Ms T Memela (ANC) emphasised the purpose of this meeting was to correct the wrongs and ensure all stakeholders are actively involved in fighting the scourge of violence against women.
Progress made by the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS Unit)
Lt. Gen. Tebello Mosikili, SAPS Divisional Commissioner: Detective Service, remarked that the FCS units were established in 2010. There are currently 185 FCS units in the country established at national, provincial and cluster levels. Although the FCS units are not yet fully capacitated to render investigative services in the provinces, there has been a request to the National Commissioner to fill the four provincial heads at the level of Brigadier and further advertisements were issued in August to fill the remaining five positions to ensure all provinces had Brigadiers to regulate crimes against women and children at provincial level.
Serial and Electronic Crime Investigations (SECI) have been established at divisional level and in the nine provinces. The purpose is to ensure the effective and efficient investigation of crime, emanating from identified serial FCS offences and electronic FCS crime (child pornography). The SECI sections are capacitated with a combined total of 100 members at national and provincial level.
Regarding social workers, the ideal situation is to have at least one social worker per unit. A total number of 27 forensic social worker posts were filled in the 2017/2018 financial year.
On the matter of the performance indicators and first quarter performance for the 2018/2019 financial year, with crimes committed against women 18 years and above, the target is to have a detection rate of 73.44% - the performance that the unit obtained was 74.46%. The target for the percentage of trial ready rate for crimes committed against women 18 years and above was 81.12% and the units obtained 85.87%. The target for the conviction rate for crimes committed against women 18 years and above was 83.10% and the units obtained 84.29%.
The target for the detection rate for crimes committed against children under 18 years was 69.27% and the units obtained 70.12%. The target for the percentage of trial ready rate for crimes committed against children under 18 years was 77.80% 82.20% was achieved. The target for the conviction rate for crimes committed against children under 18 years was 78% - 81.21% was achieved.
The FCS conducted seven performance monitoring and compliance inspections in Mpumalanga, North West and Gauteng in the current financial year. The focus areas of these inspections were on docket inspection/audits/administration, quality of investigations, case flow management, command and control and Crime Administration System (CAS) audits. A total number of 345 awareness campaigns were conducted in the provinces e.g. in schools and churches.
Members were then presented with a summary of sentences for the first quarter of the 2018/2019 financial year. 1 543 sentences of between one and nine years were handed down, while 3 011 sentences of between 10 and 19 years were handed down. These numbers include accused persons with multiple sentences. Another 137 sentences of 20 years or more were handed down to 111 accused persons. An overview was provided of cases finalised per province.
Crimes Against Women and Children in South Africa 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018
Maj. Gen. TN Sekhukhune, SAPS Head: Crime Registrar, presented the statistics for the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018, covering crimes against women and children. Crimes against women are children are categorised into murder, attempted murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, common assault and sexual offences (rape, attempted sexual offences and sexual assault).
Members were provided with an overview of the number of reported cases of these crimes between 2016/17 and 2017/18. The total rate of these sexual offences had reduced by 0.6%. The presentation looked at the prevalence of these crimes in the nine provinces between 2016/17 and 2017/18.
Sexual Offences consist of the following crime types: rape, sexual assault and attempted sexual offences. The presentation looked at the prevalence of these crimes in the nine provinces.
The report reveals that between 2016/17 and 2017/18, murders committed against women skyrocketed across all nine provinces. Limpopo recorded the greatest increase with a 52.1% upsurge followed by the Free State with a 28.7% rise. The Eastern Cape and Gauteng recorded increases of 15.5% and 10.5% respectively. 7 355 women were raped in Gauteng between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018, which represents an 8.4% increase from the previous FCS unit report. Cases of rape also went up by 6.5% in KZN, where 4 009 women reported being raped.
Crimes against children consist of: murder, attempted murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, common assault, sexual offences, rape, attempted sexual offences and sexual assault. The presentation looked at the prevalence of these crimes on a national and provincial level.
The Chairperson was concerned about the moral fibre of society, considering the high rate of crime in the country according to the statistics given in the two presentations.
Addressing Crimes against Women and Children: Presentation by the Civilian Secretariat for Police
Ms Bilkis Omar, CSP Chief Director: Policy Development, stated that the focus of her presentation is on policies in place to tackle these crimes. The Civilian Secretariat responds to crimes against women and children that find expression in policies and reports which, once signed by the Minister, are handed over to SAPS for implementation.
In July 2017, the Minister signed off on the Policy on Reducing Barriers to the Reporting of Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence. This policy aims to reduce the gap between reported and unreported incidents of sexual offences and domestic violence, strengthen role players’ attempts to prevent such violent crimes and reduce barriers to reporting these crimes. It further seeks to increase victims’ access to police and justice, ensure SAPS improves services to victims and respond in an empathic and supportive manner to victims of sexual offences, ensure SAPS is measured by the quality of care provided to survivors of rape and domestic violence and ensure SAPS reduces the number of intimate homicides where victims are in possession of a protection order.
The policy promotes a multi-disciplinary and inter-sectoral response to sexual offences and is not relevant to SAPS only. The targets are to reduce these crimes, increase reporting by encouraging victims to report cases etc.
In June 2016, the Minister approved the Policy on Investigation and Management of Serial Rape and Serial Murder. In 2016, the White Paper on Safety and Security was adopted. It focuses on the three tiers of government and prescribes the functions of each in combating violence against women and children.
Ms Omar ran through a number of challenges/barriers the Secretariat faced which prevent it from performing its functions optimally e.g. failure of reporting, poor investigative methods, poor cooperation between the various agencies and departments to avoid duplicating work and establishing new structures yet there are already existing structures, lack of clear role distinctions in legislation, insufficient victim support, lack of capacity, insufficient evidence collection kits, insufficient personnel such as social workers etc.
The Chairperson asked why it was only at this late stage that the FCS units were hiring Brigadiers in the provinces and what the reasons were for the delay in filling of these posts in other provinces. He then questioned equality before the law i.e. whether members of the public in the rural and urban environments get the same treatment when it comes to the handling of these cases - do all victims get the same support? Does SAPS have the capacity to deal with cases relating to crime perpetrated years ago?
Ms D Kohler Barnard (DA) expressed concern on the matter of trafficking of women and children - she asked why there were no scanners on the country’s borders and also no canine units present. There are many cases whereby victims of domestic violence had withdrawn charges - SAPS decided that even in the event where charges were dropped, it would still investigate but is this in fact happening? What is the position on this? She also expressed concern that SAPS only at this stage feels the need to investigate serial rape and serial murder after all these years - those behind serial murder and rape are highly intelligent and avoid being tracked for years.
Mr Z Mbhele (DA) lamented that at times one does not fully appreciate the severity and significance of addressing violence and abuse against women and children. He asked for clarity on what “contact sexual offences” means as compared to the other types of sexual offences referenced in the presentation. He asked when the Committee would receive the general crime statistics.
Ms T Stander (DA) intimated that a culture of violence is endemic in society especially violence against men and young boys - it is only when we address violence as a whole that we will be able to make South Africans feel safe. According to StatsSA, only 29% feel safe when walking in the dark and only 57.3% are happy with the number of police they see in their communities. Only 21% are seeing police on duty and in their residences. She urged the Minister to ensure there are more police if the goal is to prevent crime. Is 200 000 police enough for a population of 56 million? She asked the Minister to ensure the police are properly trained in skills like interacting with people as this would increase the reporting of crime. She also appealed to the Minister to take inter-sectional responsibility for ensuring the different government departments work together to achieve the goal of fighting violence in society.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) asked why the FCS units were being established but not capacitated. When would the posts in the units be advertised and filled? There must be a timeframe for this. Turning to the insufficiency of social workers, she asked when the vacant positions would be filled and whether there the requisite funding is available for this purpose. She also wanted to know why enough evidence collection kits were not ordered. She lamented the fact that detectives under SAPS are not trained to handle challenges the country faced.
Mr J Maake (ANC) asked the Civilian Secretariat why it did not prioritise implementing the White Paper and why some legislation was not finalised.
Ms A Molebatsi (ANC) asked why the pocketbook was not mentioned in the inspection? She also asked what the rationale for harsh sentences was. When a victim goes to a police station where there is no trained officer, who attends to her?
Ms M Cheu (ANC) reiterated that violence against women is a structural issue. She blamed the police for failing to educate communities about their role. She attributed the rape statistics of SA, which are five times as much as any other country in the world, to Apartheid. The various departments should stop their silo mentality of working in isolation. She also laid blame on the justice system which is notorious for acquitting criminals and letting them go back into the community having being absolved from liability for their offences. She lamented that some officers often refuse to handle particular cases after they have been reported to them – was SAPS training these officers to be friendly, understand, record and follow up on cases?
Ms P Bhengu-Kombe (ANC) addressed the issue of the abuse of people with disabilities, for example the abuse of learners with disabilities. She asked whether there are any systems in place to cater for their circumstances.
The Co-chair asked what social workers were doing to mitigate the effects of violence against children - the police must do more.
Responses to the questions posed
Minister of Police, Mr Bheki Cele, insisted that whenever police are blamed, it must be specified which specific officers deserve the blame because some police are good. He acknowledged there are some police officers that are bad however it should not be forgotten there are those that are very good. Therefore blanket statements like “police are bad” should be avoided. SAPS is harsh on the bad police officers and it often arrests those accused of committing crimes. He gave some examples of situations where police officers have been arrested.
He asserted the various departments do work together and often have cluster meetings to discuss strategies to solve crimes in the country. He however raised a number of challenges often encountered. Firstly, correctional centres are unable to accommodate all people that are arrested by the police. Most of these correctional facilities are overpopulated, sometimes with people that are awaiting trial.
Another problem relates to the bail regime in the country, which frustrates police officers. Some serious offenders tend to be granted bail meaning they get to go back into the communities and continue perpetrating crimes. This is one of the matters that SAPS discusses with the Department of Justice and Correctional Services. Therefore it is imperative for the various departments to coordinate their activities and work together.
On questions posed by Ms Stander, the South African police do not number 200 000 – this was in 2010. SAPS now numbers 191 000. In 2010, the population of the country was 54 million - it is now 57.3 million. The United Nations gives the figure of the community vis-a-vis the police as 1:220. He acknowledged that the police are not enough and the reduction in numbers is unsustainable. Management was asked to get more personnel from the colleges. On the other hand, if 10 000 officers were trained at a go, this would compromise the experience. The Minister said he refused to sign off on the list of people wanting to retire. There must be proper balancing i.e. although there is a need to increase the number of police officers, one must be careful not to have threatening figures where in every corner one turns, one sees a police officer.
The abuse of women and the abuse of children should not be separated because they are both very prevalent in the country.
Minister Cele expressed the challenge for SAPS in investigating and controlling abuse against women and children was the proximity of the abusers to the victims of sexual offences. It is hard for the police to control abuse perpetrated by close relatives like a parent or romantic partner. The police cannot have roadblocks to ask whether a particular person is with a boyfriend or not.
The police need to be trained on how to deal with reports of abuse to avoid scenarios where police officers tell complainants to resolve abuse through negotiations. It might also be a good idea to have female officers assisting victims at the front desk. This is with the aim of increasing sensitivity with these cases of abuse. Also, the victims of such abuse may be willing to explain the abuse to a female officer as opposed to a male officer.
He acknowledged the rise in serious offences against women and children was worrying but SAPS was making progress in arresting and prosecuting the culprits. Over 600 offenders were sentenced to life in the past financial year for sexual offences.
He emphasised that the police cannot perform their functions effectively without the communities. The community is the best intelligence and SAPS needed to improve relationships with the community at large.
Lt. Gen. LJ Tsumane, Acting National Commissioner of Police, said that he is working with the National Commissioner to fill all vacant positions in the provinces.
The unit that deals with psychologist services was relocated to forensic services because psychologists are more appropriate when dealing with detecting crimes. On the question of training police officers, officers receive regular and continuous training on a regular basis. He however acknowledged that this training could be enhanced and the training curriculum ought to be changed and developed.
He agreed with Ms Molebatsi that pocketbooks are necessary when conducting investigations and should be available all the time and be updated often. Whenever investigations are being conducted, police officers always ensure they have the pocketbook as well as the crime file. Officers need to consult the pocketbook entries whenever they are giving evidence or opposing bail.
Lt. Gen. Mosikili asserted there are FCS units in all the old cluster structures in the provinces. The capacity for both urban and rural areas is relatively the same therefore there is no differential treatment. In response to Ms Kohler Barnard’s concern about what happens when the victims of abuse withdraw cases, she said that SAPS often refers these matters for arbitration, mediation or other forms of alternative resolution regardless of the withdrawal of charges as the intention is to restore peace within families if that can be done.
Turning to awareness campaigns and public education (community mobilisation), 325 campaigns were conducted between April and June of the current financial year. This includes public education. This is often done by the FCS units in concert with various other departments, such as visible policing, amongst others.
Maj. Gen. MM Motlhala, SAPS Acting Divisional Commissioner: Visible Policing, on the question by Ms Kohler Barnard, said there are units put in place and responsible for border policing. Canine units are often deployed to aid in operations. Part of the mandate of the police is to establish community fora in police stations to ensure they mobilise all community formations and form partnerships with different stakeholders in the community.
Another member from SAPS said that everybody/ institution that is instituted by the SAPS is guided by the legal principles e.g. the Sexual Offences Amendment Act of 2007, which categorises crimes. These pieces of legislation are the guiding tools that the police have to adhere to.
Lt. Gen. Mosikili responded to the question raised regarding offences against people living with disabilities and children and said the matter is provided for under Section 24 of the Sexual Offences Amendment Act of 2007.
Mr Alvin Rapea, Secretary of Police, responded to the matter of training of detectives and other SAPS members by saying that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation) (DPCI) is the only body that has members that have been trained on matters relating to trafficking of persons. These crimes are perceived to be organised crimes and therefore under the jurisdiction of the DPCI. After seeing a gap on this matter, the Minister instructed that training take place in police stations which will commence soon, after the Minister’s intervention.
The Minister has prioritised the White Paper and it is for this reason that there will be a Crime Prevention Summit in September which will bring all stakeholders, including civil society and government departments, together to deal with implementation of matters in the White Paper. It will also clarify the roles of those that are mentioned in the White Paper so as to provide clarity.
Ms Omar insisted that the focus of her department is on the police’s role in the prevention of crimes against women and children.
Presentation by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA): Violence Against Women
Ms Bavelile Hlongwa, Deputy Chairperson of the NYDA Board, noted that the problem in the country is that we wait for crimes to be committed then we react - we need to treat the environment rather than to react. There is a psychological issue with men that needs to be dealt with to prevent the continuous oppression of women. This would only be done if people realise how they have been affected and what they need to change and unlearn. Before we can police, we need to have people with correct minds. This is why the Department of Social Development remains a key part of this exercise.
The police are also accused of not understanding the plight of the victims of abuse, predominantly women. She gave an example of a situation where she went with a victim of harassment to the police station to report the abuse and the police told her to speak with the person who abused her. She also lamented about the justice system that easily grants perpetrators bail.
There is also a problem with the way cases are reported – when one reported a case of gender based violence, one can only open a case of grievous bodily harm and not a case of gender based violence.
She requested all government departments to do away with their private security systems, which is too expensive, and channel that money towards increasing the number of police officers. Women suffer abuse every day and society is silent. Women feel unprotected by society and the policing and justice systems are not assisting. She suggested it may come to a point that women will rise up and fight against men. Our mothers were silent, we cannot be silent.
Ms Juliet Tshoke, NYDA Executive Director: Corporate Strategy and Planning, presented the observations the NYDA has made on sexual offences against women between 2015 and 2016/17. In that period, sexual offences against women increased from 31 665 to 70 813, which represents an increase of 53%. In the same period about 138 women were raped (per 100 000). The murder rate among women has increased by 117% between 2015 and 2016/2017. Details were provided on the percentages of victims of crimes that are women. The highlighted crimes include theft of personal property, fraud, hijacking, street robbery, sexual offence and assault.
The statistics of sexual violence against women i.e. those that have experienced sexual violence ever by any partner and those that have experienced sexual violence over the last 12 months, were provided. Also covered was violence against women per geographical area and statistics relating to physical violence against women in different age groups from the age of 18 to over 65 years.
The challenges that the Agency identified included ineffectiveness of interventions, perpetrators get bail easily disregarding victims who become the subject of the violent character after bail, many women get killed with the protection order in their hands, justice system does not seek to protect but rather react, lack of integrated planning, insufficient budget for gender issues within government departments, justice system supports perpetrators more than the victims and the victims are easily intimidated with no consequences.
The triggers in the youth sector are socialisation of young women and men in society creating a submissive culture, young people grow up in families characterised by violence, young men feeling that young women might have taken over their roles as heads of families, increased substance abuse, increased access to guns, police service discourages victims from seeking help and inadequate budget to implement the Domestic Violence Act and its obligations.
The challenges/ limitations in the youth sector are researched data/statistics limitations (not accurate) for planning purposes, institutional capacity of SAPS to effectively manage the process as the first point of contact is concerning, treatment of complainants and providing professional advice not sufficient, response mechanisms in police stations and intervention initiatives very limited and not working with other institutions to elevate issues of concern (collaboration efforts).
The implications of the above are violence against women is on the rise, high level of violence against women has social-economic and psychological implications, economic disadvantage makes women more vulnerable to violence and abuse, need for urgent intervention and police response is still largely patriarchal and not effective.
Recommendations include strengthening the criminal justice system, encouraging self-defense, providing support for victims (including counselling) and implementing current interventions more rigorously. These are the reactive approaches. The proactive approaches include socialising children differently including through school curriculum, gender equality be made part of the mainstream discourse, generate more knowledge on the matter through in-depth research and work with gender institutions to develop relevant and responsive programmes.
CRL Rights Commission: Discussions around crimes against women and children
Ms Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva CRL Commission Chairperson, began by outlining the mandate of the CRL which, in terms of the CRL Act, is to promote and protect the cultural, religious and linguistic rights of communities.
The challenges in the cultural, religious and healing sector, as per the Domestic Violence Act include, physical abuse (physical abuse of initiates genital mutilations, assault of initiates), emotional, verbal and psychological abuse (degrading and belittling language used, mind manipulation and indoctrination of congregants, threats of death if one fails to submit to the religious leader’s instructions and sexual victims being forced to recite Psalms 51), economic abuse (selling of faith products, self-enrichment by some initiation school owners, ‘Gobelas’ i.e. someone who trains traditional leaders and religious leaders, payment for prayers), stalking (monitoring of victims by some religious leaders as part of sexual grooming), intimidation (children are intimidated in school toilets to go to initiation, sexually violated victims are threatened by some religious leaders), harassment (verbal insults and name calling of women and girls by some religious leaders, degrading of congregants’ human dignity), gender fault lines (female headed households targeted in abduction of children for initiation and ‘Ukuthwala’) and sexual abuse (rape of ‘amathwasa’, young women and girls).
She invited a mother from the community to give her testimony of the abuses her two children suffered under a pastor in the community. The children were abducted by the pastor and kept in his church for three years. It was discovered that he raped and assaulted these children that he had kidnapped and kept in his church. The police knew of the situation but did not do anything to assist. The police told the mother there is nothing they could do. Some of the police officers in the area actually attended that particular church. In fact, a number of the officers were working as protocol officers for the pastor and aiding him in abducting little children and keeping them in the church, according to the mother. She even sought the help of the media so that the plight of her children could be highlighted, but no assistance was forthcoming.
There are more than 30 charges that have levelled against this particular pastor by a number of children that were his victims as well as their parents. A lot of young people are coming out to report such crimes by religious leaders within their communities.
Ms Mkhwanazi-Xaluva lamented the fact that some police officers refuse to open charges against religious leaders because they feel the pastors and religious leaders are representatives of God and are ‘untouchable’. Also, the police should be empowered to arrest other police.
Presentation by COSATU and POPCRU
Mr Matthew Parks, COSATU Parliamentary Coordinator, began by asserting that the rate of femicide in South Africa is 5 times the global rate. Women are killed every eight hours in South Africa and they are killed by her partners every four hours in the country.
According to the 2016/2017 statistics, the reported rape cases were 39 828 6271 for sexual assault, 2 075 for attempted sexual assault and 1 488 for contact sexual assault. 124 526 rape cases were reported in the last three years and children were victims in an alarming 50 926, or 41%, of these cases.
Recommendations suggested for SAPS include redeployment of SAPS personnel from offices and desks to detectives, community, intelligence and visible policing, improved and dedicated SAPS training, dedicated FCS detectives and case officers at all stations, deployment of social workers and psychologists to support survivors at SAPS stations, improved Victim Friendly Rooms (VFRs) at all stations and improved forensic support.
Recommendations directed to the courts are tighter collaboration between SAPS and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), conviction rates must be improved, courts be made women and children friendly, deny perpetrators bail, increased mandatory sentences and filling of prosecutor vacancies.
In terms of legislation, a number of recommendations were also suggested. These included to the Domestic Violence and Criminal Procedures Acts (denial of bail and increased mandatory sentences, life sentences for child and gang rape), Prevention of Organised Crime Act (increased sentences for recruiting children into gangs), Firearms Amendment Bill (bring Bill to Parliament or simply ban private firearm ownership and firearms amnesty period), National Liquor Amendment Bill (reduce excessive consumption, ban adverts, raise the drinking age to 21, liabilities etc.).
Furthermore, focus groups needing urgent intervention include the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer+, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, farm workers’ children, children recruited by gangs, street children, sex workers, child brides (Ukuthwala) and migrants (especially female genital mutilation).
Areas requiring urgent intervention are homes, schools, tertiary educational institutions, churches, mosques etc., old age home,; reformatories, gangs (targeting children under 18 years to commit crimes and avoid prison), substance abuse of all types, prisons, night clubs, taxis and trains.
Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust
Ms Jeanne Bodenstein, Advocacy Coordinator, began by expressing that the vision of the centre is to see a society where women are safe in the communities and where the criminal justice system supports and empowers rape survivors. The mission of the centre is to promote safety in communities, reduce trauma experienced by rape survivors, empower women, promote gender equality, strengthen the criminal justice system and work actively to address flaws in legislation.
The institution delivers direct services to more than 7 000 survivors of rape per year at three forensic units, five courts and at its three offices where it offers counselling support. Its clients share their experiences of the police, forensic services and courts and it collects these experiences on its database in order to advocate for change.
Some experiences shared include refusal to open cases or discouraging a complainant to open a case, arrests, complainant’s assistance with arrests, lack of information regarding bail or progress in the investigation, investigating officers not contactable, not treated with sensitivity or taken to victim friendly room, myths and stereotypes and when complaints are reported to Station Commanders, complainants rarely receive feedback.
The above complaints send a message to complainants that “the police does not care”, thus contributing to the lack of faith in the criminal justice system and lower reporting rates, mistrust of the police as well as lower conviction rates.
Recommendations suggested that could assist to address the above challenges are a stronger criminal justice system with sexual offences courts and prosecutor- lead investigations and effective complaint mechanisms that provide timeous feedback to complainants.
Ms Khawula appreciated the opportunity to address the police directly in this meeting. She emphasised that churches abuse women and even control their dress code and behaviour. “Women are easily deceived and vulnerable”. Members, as representatives of the people, must fight against these matters. Why are foreigners allowed to start these churches?
Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) reiterated that problems addressed in this meeting are societal requiring consultatative programmes be instituted for various stakeholders involved. Religious leaders must be engaged in the different fora created to tackle different societal matters.
Ms Cheu emphasised the problem is patriarchy which is the system that oppresses women. Patriarchy manifests itself in cultural practices, including in Western cultures. It is not only Africans that are oppressed - society does not see oppression because the whole society is oppressed. This is an ideological problem.
Mr P Mhlongo (EFF) placed blame on members of the community for putting themselves in positions where they would be abused - why did they go to those churches and allow themselves to be manipulated?
Ms Kohler Barnard asked the police and civil society whether they had noticed an increase in violent attacks by women. The courts are also infamous for being very easy on women and perpetuating unequal treatment between men and women. Was there a strategy to deal with situations of mostly male police officers killing themselves or their families as a result of job-related stress and other mental issues? Police officers often treat domestic violence complaints by women with contempt and do nothing about these complaints.
Ms L Mabija (ANC) expressed that she could not speak out in the meeting about certain matters. Instead she requested certain Members remain in their seats after the meeting in order to have another meeting to share their views on several matters.
Mr Mbhele noted that youth gangsterism is an issue in many communities which later translates to organised crime.
Ms D Robinson (DA) noted that violence in society is caused by lack of hope and depression amongst people in all aspects of society. This is something that must be tackled urgently. Members, as public representatives, and civil society need to be harder on government and urge it to put its money where its mouth is. If government cares for people it should ensure funds are available and that money is not spent on corruption or other projects. She insisted there must be a stronger justice system but noted the lack of funding. The training of police officers must also be improved and a special focus must be on crimes and how to investigate them appropriately. She advocated for counselling in medical health clinics and that there is a need to have units to help with parenting and to give guidance on various societal matters.
Ms Sander reiterated that in order for the police force to build trust, it needs to review its training methods and curriculum. She asked for the police to expressly inform rape victims of their rights and entitlements. The police should make it easier for members of the public to report crimes e.g. via establishing SMS hotlines. SAPS should also not always rely on Parliament and other bodies to implement policies.
Mr Maake stated that the problems currently being dealt with are societal problems dealt with everywhere e.g. in schools, churches, initiation schools, hospitals, clinics etc. Why is there only talking of the behaviour in police stations? Why is there no talk of these other places? These problems must be solved societally – the police could not always be relied on because they are not perfect.
Minister Cele expressed sympathy with the mother from the community whose children were subjected to gross violations and abuse from a pastor within the community. The police cannot do anything about people in love and in personal relationships. It is the interests of society to act. We should ask the community what they are doing about the problems. These matters should be dealt with by the society and not left to the police alone. The biggest organisation in the world is the family – if the family was not sorted out, nothing will be sorted out.
A member from SAPS added the police needs the assistance and input of civil society in fighting the various societal vices.
A representative of the South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID) stated that the challenges that South Africa faced today originate from the Apartheid era. SAWID has been piloting a poverty eradication strategy for the last 15 years to utilise the services of both men and women and pays them to do community work, especially with families. The whole of society needs to be changed and government must be pulled down to the level of the family.
Ms Memela advocated for the need to work together and include all stakeholders including NGOs. We must avoid working in silos. This is an important way to build the country. She emphasised that we must love each other, without looking at racial groups. Regardless of race, we must love each other and share whatever we have. Let us start loving each other truthfully.
The meeting was adjourned.
- SAPS: Progress made by the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit
- SAPS: Crimes Against Women and Children in South Africa 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018
- CRL Rights Commission: Discussions around Crimes Against Women and Children
- Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust presentation
- CSP: DVA Report: Key Findings
- CSP: DVA Report no 10: April 2017 - September 2017
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