GBV Bills: briefing with Justice Deputy Minister

NCOP Security and Justice

23 June 2021
Chairperson: Ms S Shaikh (ANC, Limpopo)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

Video: Select Committee on Security and Justice, 23 June 2021

In this virtual meeting, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJCD) briefed the Committee on three Section 75 bills: the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill (SORMA Bill), the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill (CRMA Bill), and the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill (DVA Bill).

The Bills emerged from the 2018 Presidential Summit to address the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) in the country. The Sexual Offences Bill was amending some definitions, but it predominantly dealt with the National Register of Sex Offenders (NRSO); the DVA Bill was tightening up domestic violence orders; and the CRMA Bill dealt with several amendments from bail to sentencing and so forth.

The Department said there were currently 30 270 confirmed sex offenders and 4 773 flagged offenders on the National Register of Sex Offenders (NRSO). The Deputy Minister clarified that the Sexual Offences Amendment Bill would extend this on two levels. One was that a person’s name would go onto the Register for any sexual offence that they were convicted of. It was therefore not limited to offences against  children and people with mental disabilities. Secondly, it broadened the scope of employment.

The Committee welcomed the Bills and commended the Department’s commitment to ensure it was victim-centred. This would strengthen the criminal justice system and improve efforts to address GBVF in the country.

Members asked questions about the offence created if an adult failed to report their knowledge or suspicion that an act of domestic violence had been committed against a child; a person with a disability; or an older person. They asked about the accessibility and reliability of the National Register of Sex Offenders.

Members questioned the cost to ensure the effective implementation of the Bills. There was concern that the vulnerability of hate crime victims, sex workers, and the LGBTQI+ community was not recognised in the Sexual Offences Bill.

Members said the public should be educated on what acts constituted a sexual offence so that people could refrain from committing these acts. This should be embedded in the Committee’s work on an ongoing basis to ensure the education of society.

Members noted the crux was for victims of GBVF to get justice and to have confidence in the justice system. It recognised the urgency to finalise these Bills and the President’s plea to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for these Bills to be processed urgently.

The process for advertising the Bills for public comments had already begun and the Committee looked forward to receiving these submissions.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Minister and his DoJCD team for the briefing on the gender-based violence (GBV) Bills. This was a very important meeting as Members were aware the levels of GBVF in this country was amongst the highest in the world, which was acknowledged by the President as the second pandemic.

In November 2018, the Presidential Summit against GBVF was held which resulted in a declaration that included the following resolutions:
- fast-track the review of the existing laws and policies against GBV to be victim-centred and to ensure all other relevant laws responded to GBVF,
- implement the recommendations identified from the reviews and address legislative gaps; consider creating a regulatory framework for religious institutions to curb sexual abusers and crimes under the guises of religion;
- revisit and fast-track all outstanding laws and goals related to GBVF, including decriminalisation of sex work.

On 18 September 2020, the President expressed the country’s commitment to address GBVF and announced an emergency response plan to address GBVF which included strengthening the legal and policy framework. The three section 75 Bills before the Committee form part of this process. The Chairperson handed over to the Deputy Minister for a briefing on all three Bills.

Deputy Minister opening remarks
The Deputy Minister, Mr John Jeffery, noted the large DoJCD delegation led by the Deputy Director-General: Legislative Development, Ms Kalayvani Pillay, with different officials dealing with the three Bills. Ms Pillay would introduce the delegation.

The Deputy Minister said the Chairperson had provided a brief background on the Presidential Summit on GBVF where there was an agreement and an undertaking by government to review the GBV and sexual offences laws. These were amendments to the Acts and each one was linked, as it was essentially a package.

The SORMA Bill was changing some definitions, but it predominantly dealt with the National Register of Sex Offenders (NRSO); the DVA Bill was tightening up domestic violence orders; and the CRMA Bill dealt with several amendments from bail to sentencing and so forth.

DoJCD briefing
Deputy Director-General (DDG): Legislative Development, Ms Kalayvani Pillay, introduced the drafters responsible for each Bill. She noted Ms Delene Clark from the South African Law Reform Commission who was the original drafter of the South African Law Commission report that led to the Domestic Violence Act. She had a wide range of experience and had also assisted with the Amendment Bill. This support team would provide the Committee with the briefing.

Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act Amendment Bill [B16B-2020]
Mr Du Preez, DoJCD State Law Advisor, said the Bill consisted of two categories of amendments. The first dealt with the offences and the reporting duty of the suspected sexual abuse of vulnerable persons. The second category aimed to effect amendments to Chapter 6 of the Principal Act that dealt with the NRSO. Although the second category had a large number of amendments, most of these were consequential in nature. The important provisions dealt with the extension of the ambit of characteristics as reflected in the Portfolio Committee amendments in the definitions section in Chapter 6.

Sexual intimidation
On the proposed new provision on sexual intimidation, section 5(2) dealt with sexual assault and provided for a person who inspired the belief in another person that he/she would be sexually violated, to be guilty of the offence of sexual violation. This followed from the common law principle that if a person threatened someone with violence, they could be convicted of assault. Since sexual violation was a subcategory of the offence of assault, that was included in section 5. A question was raised why this principle could not be extended to include all other sexual offences. Thus Clause 2 deleted section 5(2) to replace it with the new offence with a wider ambit. Clause 4 introduced a new offence of “sexual intimidation” to prohibit persons from intimidating others into believing that they or a third party, being a person in a close relationship with the victim, would be subjected to sexual offences.

Reporting duties
Section 54 dealt with the obligation to report the commission of a sexual offence against a mentally disabled child or a person to the police. A person who had knowledge that a sexual offence was committed against a child must report such knowledge immediately to the police. A person who had “knowledge, reasonable belief or suspicion” that a sexual offence was committed against a mentally disabled a person must report it immediately to the police. Clause 19 aimed to ensure the reporting duty was the same for these groups. It replaced reference to “children” and “persons who are mentally disabled” with a reference to “persons who are vulnerable”.

Second category of amendments: Chapter 6 NRSO and extension of protected persons
Section 43 of the Act set out the objects of the NRSO to protect mentally disabled children and persons against sexual offenders by establishing and maintaining a record of persons who had been convicted of a sexual offence against a mentally disabled child or person. Mr Du Preez outlined the objects.

The majority of proposed amendments (clauses 1 and 5 to 17) in the Bill aimed to expand the scope of the NRSO to include the particulars of all sex offenders, and not only sex offenders against mentally disabled children and persons. It also aimed to expand the ambit to include other vulnerable persons such as female persons between the ages of 18 and 25, and persons with physical, intellectual or mental disabilities.

Clause 5 aimed to amend certain definitions to extend the ambit of Chapter 6 beyond mentally disabled children and persons. Two new definitions would be included clause 5 to extend the ambit of Chapter 6. This included “person who is vulnerable” as a reference to children, persons with disabilities, persons cared for or sheltered in facilities that provided services to victims of crime, and female persons under the age of 25.

Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill [B 17B – 2020]
Ms Virginia Letswalo, State Law Advisor: DOJCD, said one purpose of this Bill is to extend the use of intermediaries and an audio-visual link (AVL) to give evidence, and the main object of the Bill was to promote a victim-centred approach during court proceedings.

Provisions on the use of intermediaries
Evidence through intermediaries was an effective procedure to protect witnesses or complainants against victimisation during court proceedings but this was currently available only to child witnesses / complainants in criminal proceedings. The use of AVL ensured availability of witnesses in court proceedings and prevented harm to witnesses.

The Bill amended the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) of 1977 to enable a witness to give evidence through AVL both from inside and outside the Republic; and to broaden the circumstances in criminal proceedings where intermediaries may be utilised. A witness who suffered from a physical, psychological, mental, or emotional condition would be able to use an intermediary to testify.

Provisions on assault and minimum sentences
The Bill amended several schedules to the CPA to expand on the offence of assault when a dangerous wound was inflicted. This would enable it to include more serious forms of assault which had a bearing on arrest without warrant, on granting of bail, and on obtaining bodily samples.

It amended the Criminal Law Amendment Act (CLAA) of 1997. Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the CLAA provided for life imprisonment. The Bill would add the following offences: murder of a person under the age of 18 years; and the death of the victim who was in a domestic relationship with the accused where the death of the victim resulted from physical or sexual abuse. Slide 10 spoke to the other offences that would be added.

Domestic Violence Amendment Bill [B20B-2020]
Mr Makubela Mokulubete, State Law Advisor: DOJCD, said the Bill addressed the practical challenges, the gaps, and anomalies that had manifested since Domestic Violence Act of 1998 was put into operation in 1999. These challenges rendered women and children helpless to the violence they experienced, often in the confines of their homes.

Clause 3
This clause introduced two sections. Section 2A imposed obligations on functionaries who believed or suspected, on reasonable grounds, that a child; a person with a disability; or an older person may be a victim of domestic violence, to report this belief or suspicion:
- a social worker; or
- a member of the South African Police Service (SAPS).
The definition of a functionary was included.

Section 2B imposed obligations on adults persons to report their knowledge; belief; or suspicion (on reasonable grounds) that an act of domestic violence had been committed against a child; a person with a disability; or an older person. They must report this to a social worker or to SAPS.

The Bill included an important provision that a functionary or an adult who reported an act of domestic violence in good faith, was not liable to civil, criminal, or disciplinary action on the basis of the report. This was the case despite any law, policy, or code of conduct that prohibited the disclosure of personal information. This was done to encourage people to report without the penalty of a civil or criminal liability.

The Bill created an offence where an adult failed to report the abuse.

Clause 4
This clause spoke to arrests without a warrant. Peace officers were empowered to arrest a respondent where an act of domestic violence which constituted an offence was committed. If an act of domestic violence had been committed by the respondent contained an element of physical violence, the peace officer was obliged to arrest the respondent.

A peace officer called to respond to a scene of domestic violence, but who was not a SAPS member, must provide the complainant with a prescribed list of accessible shelters and
public health establishments.

The Bill excluded the SAPS members because section 2 of the Act already provided for the police to provide the complainant with the prescribed list.

Clause 7
This clause introduced section 4A into the Act where the Bill made provision for a domestic violence safety monitoring notice. This notice could be applied for by the complainant, where the complainant shared a joint residence with the respondent. The application would be on a form that would be prescribed in the regulations. That application would then be submitted with the application for a protection order. However, it could be submitted subsequently after the application for a protection had been submitted. The complainant would still be able to make a specific or a separate application for this safety monitoring notice. If the court granted the application, the notice would require the station commander of the police station within the jurisdiction to assign a SAPS member to regularly contact or visit the complainant to enquire into the complainant’s wellbeing.

However, there might be instances where the SAPS member would be prevented from seeing the complainant. In this instance, the SAPS member may use reasonable force to enter the joint residence to see and to communicate with the complainant in private.

This notice would be time bound. After the expiry of the period for which the notice was issued, the station commander or his/her delegate must file a report with the clerk of the court. That report would contain information that would be prescribed by the regulations.

Financial implications
The financial implications of the Bill were the training on the directives that would have been issued by the various departments such as the Department of Health, the Department of Social Development, SAPS, DoJCD, Department of Basic Education, Department of Higher Education and Training, and the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.

It also included the upgrading of the Criminal Justice System by DoJCD to cater for the integrated electronic repository. However, this would be the expenditure that would be used from existing budgets of these respective departments.

The Chairperson said the Committee was ultimately very interested the effective implementation of Bills. What were the financial implications and costs to ensure these Bills effectively implemented? The other matter was training. The DVA Bill required specific training. Who would DoJCD engage to ensure people were capacitated so that the Bills could be effectively implemented?

Were there still amendments that DoJCD was of the view still needed to be made, especially to ensure the three Bills were aligned to legislation?

In terms of consultation on the Bills, what were the general concerns of stakeholders? Were these concerns sufficiently captured in the B version of the Bill before the Committee? Since other departments were also involved, did it consult all relevant departments affected by the Bills?

The Chairperson requested an overview of concerns or challenges it encountered during the engagements with those departments, and how these were addressed to ensure effective implementation of the Bills.

Ms N Nkosi (ANC, Mpumalanga) referred to the SORMA Bill. On the NRSO , did DoJCD consider extending the scope to include offenders who came into contact with vulnerable persons in situations outside of employment – such as unpaid positions at associations or clubs.

Was DoJCD able to provide information about the current status and functioning of the NRSO? How many sex offender names were on the Register database? How accessible was the database to those who had a legal right to access it? How much awareness was there of the database? How reliable was the information contained in the Register?

On “vulnerable persons” in clause 5, how was the age of 25 arrived at? What informed this decision on the age of 25? Should this age not be set higher? She asked why the Bill did not recognise the vulnerability of hate crime victims, sex workers, and the LGBTQI+ community. [inaudible due to poor network connectivity].

Ms Nkosi later regained connectivity. She referred to clause 18 of the SORMA Bill amending section 54 and asked if DoJCD considered aligning its wording with that of clause 3 of the DVA Bill? The DVA Bill also dealt with the obligation to report by an adult person who knew, believed, or suspected on reasonable grounds. It specified that the report must be made on the prescribed form and it must outline the reasons for such knowledge, belief, or suspicion. How would it be established or proved that a person had this knowledge, belief, or suspicion that the offence was committed?

Ms M Bartlett (ANC, Northern Cape) said the use of intermediaries in the CRMA Bill was welcomed. What would be the cost implications of appointing these intermediaries?

The Committee welcomed that the DVA Bill sought to be stringent on domestic violence offenders. What was DoJCD’s view on rehabilitation and the capacity of prisons to detain these offenders?

On clause 3 of the DVA Bill, section 2A stipulated that the functionaries must complete a risk assessment report. What would such a report entail? Would training be provided for completion of these reports? What accountability was in place for inadequate risk assessment or failure to conduct a risk assessment?

On clause 4 of the DVA Bill, it obligated peace officers, who were not police officers, to attend to domestic violence incidents to provide information. Why were police officers excluded from this requirement to provide this information or assistance to the complainant?

On clause 7 of the DVA Bill, the introduction of the domestic violence safety monitoring notice placed significantly more obligations on SAPS. It was critical for SAPS to have adequate capacity. What training and costs were envisaged for the implementation of the safety notices?

Mr T Dodovu (ANC, North West) welcomed the helpful and informative briefings. He hoped there would be compliance to ensure the scourge of GBV ended, especially as it was mainly perpetuated by patriarchy in society.

He asked for some elements or examples of what constituted sexual intimidation? This should be clearly understood so people could recognize under what circumstances this happens and how it could be dealt with. Society required continual education about people's rights and what needed to be done. The public should be educated on what acts constituted a sexual offence so that people refrain from committing certain acts. He believed this should be embedded in the Committee’s ongoing work to ensure there was this education in society as this was quite important.

Mr Dodovu asked what if a person lied about an offence that did not happen. For example, if a man laid a charge against a woman as a means of retaliation. What would be the recourse? Someone could open a false case but later withdraw it. The other person would have to endure an excruciating process which could have been avoided.

The Chairperson proposed that Members submit other questions in writing to the Deputy Minister. She handed over to the Deputy Minister to respond. The Department was also welcome to respond in writing if it wanted to provide the Committee with more detailed clarity.

Deputy Minister response
The Deputy Minister said the officials could respond to the detailed questions such as the costing of the Bills and the training. He noted there was training from the Justice College for government public service officials, as well as the South African Judicial Education Institute for judicial officers. The officials would speak to alignment with other legislation and about stakeholders.

The Draft Bills were publicised by DoJCD for public comment at the beginning of 2020. Due to Covid-19, the comment period was extended. Based on the comments received, amendments were made to the Bills and then they were submitted to Cabinet for approval. Cabinet agreed to the introduction of these Bills. The Portfolio Committee then processed them. The officials could provide more details on implementation. It had meetings with SAPS and other departments.

In response to Ms Nkosi on the NRSO, the existing Sexual Offences Act stated that if a sexual offence was committed against a child or a person with a mental disability, the court ordered that a person’s name should go onto the NRSO. People employed to look after vulnerable people must have their names checked against the Register. This Amendment Bill would extend this on two levels. One was that a person’s name would go onto the Register for any sexual offence that they were convicted of. It was therefore not limited to offences against  children and people with mental disabilities. Secondly, it broadened the scope of employment.

He noted the definition of a 'vulnerable person' which included women under the age of 25. This was directed at people who work with vulnerable people. The issue was ascertaining the vulnerability. A child was considered a person under the age of 18. If an 18-year-old woman left school and was residing at a woman’s residence at a tertiary institution, they should expect the people employed in the residence to be vetted as the young women were vulnerable in that residence. A young woman working in a shop was less vulnerable as the chances of getting sexually assaulted or raped in a public place were fewer. The Deputy Minister noted the age of 25 was a judgement call.

DoJCD assessed and believed it could not stipulate that no person with a sexual offence could be employed. He questioned what would happen to those people after they served their sentences.

There were submissions from the LGBTQI+ groups about being included in the vulnerable persons category. He confirmed the Department had a meeting with some of the organisations. LGBTQI+ people are vulnerable but, in this context, he questioned on what basis or context a person was working with LGBTQI+ people. The Department suggested shelters but there was a general consensus from the people it met with not to include this category. They were vulnerable, but in terms of what was needed from this Bill, there was no specific categories of employment. In his view, the category was limited to employment as how else could contact be restricted.

On intermediaries, children and people with mental disabilities could testify through an intermediary. The Department was extending this which meant more intermediaries, but the Department officials would respond about the increased costs of that.

On Ms Bartlett’s questions on rehabilitation and the capacity of Correctional Services to accommodate, he said this was a valid question. There were numerous debates, for example, if it was worth sentencing someone to a term of imprisonment of less than six months or a year. If a person was sentenced for this period, they probably had no chance of undergoing a rehabilitation programme. It was therefore a question of whether those people should be sent to jail or not, or whether the sentence should be extended. There was pressure from the public to increase the number of offences for which there were minimum sentences. He gave the example of people who had committed crime and who were eligible for parole, but family members of the deceased victim did not want those people out on parole, although they qualified. it was a difficult issue as rehabilitation was very important, but there was also the pressure to further emphasise the seriousness of those cases.

The Deputy Minister gave one example of sexual intimidation that was raised with him. This was a taxi conductor threatening to rape a woman. That was sexual intimidation.

On false accusations, he replied that it does happen. However, the complainant has made an affidavit and would be subject to penalties if this was retracted because it was a lie.

The Deputy Minister asked the officials to respond to the rest of the questions. He noted the Chairperson’s proposal to provide detailed written responses – this would be good if needed.

Department response on Sexual Offences Bill
Mr Du Preez replied about extending the scope to persons outside of employment. The Deputy Minister had covered this question and it was something that would be discussed with the Committee during its deliberations. However, at this stage, the intention of the NRSO was preventative in nature.

He noted the NRSO Registrar was in the meeting and she would be able to respond to the questions on how many sex offenders were in the Register, access to the NRSO database and how reliable the database was.

Mr Du Preez noted the Deputy Minister had replied about sexual intimidation. When the Portfolio Committee deliberated on the Bill, the new offence of sexual intimidation included reference to all sexual offences contained in the Principal Act. The Principal Act was divided into general offences, as well as offences that may be committed against children and persons who were mentally disabled. The offence could be committed not only directly against the complainant, but also to a person who was in a close relationship with the complainant. For example, where a person threatened the complainant that his/her child or family member would be subjected to sexual offences.

On the consultation process, DoJCD could categorically state that it consulted extensively. An initial task team, chaired by the Deputy Minister, gave rise to the first and second draft of the Bills. This task team included members of non-governmental organisation (NGO) communities. Initially, the most common concern was on the ambit of the NRSO especially in view of the requirements of access to children. This was a technical aspect and DoJCD would get to this during the deliberations with the Committee.

Ms Ntombi Matjila, NRSO Registrar, replied about the accessibility of the Register. Currently, the Register was held in a confidential manner, but it was accessible in a prescribed format. The accessibility was open to five categories of persons: employers, employees, licensing authorities, relevant authorities, and people who currently existed in the Register could apply to view if their details appeared in the Register or apply on behalf of another person.

There were 30 270 confirmed sex offenders and 4 773 flagged offenders currently listed in the Register. She clarified that flagged offenders meant that their cases were currently on the court roll or had been finalised but the NRSO was awaiting final documentation for confirmation to make it active.

Ms Matjila confirmed the database was very reliable because it was updated daily. As and when a conviction was made by the court, the court would then record it on the database called the Integrated Case Management System. When a case was finalised, it would include all the details, update it, and forward it through to the Registrar. The NRSO was awaiting final documentation for flagged offenders, but she emphasised the database was reliable.

Department response on CRMA Bill
Ms Letswalo replied about the cost implications for the use of intermediaries in court proceedings and the capacity of prisons. During engagements with the Portfolio Committee, all the role-playing departments briefed it on their state of readiness to implement these Bills. This also covered the costs of implementing the Bills and the Portfolio Committee was satisfied with what was presented. She was certain DoJCD could provide these documents that were presented to that Committee.

On the departments consulted, Ms Letswalo replied that the CRMA Bill was developed in consultation with several stakeholders including the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Correctional Services and SAPS.

DoJCD received several public comments, but most of these were broad in nature as not directly linked to the ambit of the CRMA Bill. For example, submissions stated that harsh sentences were inadequate deterrence, there were requests for oversight and monitoring on the implementation of this Bill, and others were about the unacceptable treatment of victims in the system.

Submissions received by the Portfolio Committee led it to amend the introduced Bill. For example, on the use of intermediaries, after the consultation process, the Bill now has a provision that allows the court to review its decision to refuse the use of an intermediary if circumstances changed. There was also now a provision that requires the court to consider, during bail proceedings, whether the accused had previously committed a domestic violence offence while on parole. It inserted the offence of attempted murder in the schedule of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. These three provisions were initially not in the Bill when it was introduced to Parliament.

Department response on DVA Bill
Mr Mokulubete replied to about clause 3's insertion of section 2A on a functionary who suspected a person was a victim of domestic violence must complete a report. On the what this report would entail, the clause indicated the form to be completed would be prescribed. This meant that the regulations would outline what the report should contain. The details of the form would not be included in the Bill but was a matter that would be included in the regulations. He therefore did not want to pre-empt the contents of the report; however, the report would address the identification of the person who the functionary suspected to be a victim of a domestic violence act.

It would also address the reasons the functionary suspected the person may be a victim of domestic violence. That report would require this information to be included in this form, but the regulations would outline this. The regulations process would include consultations amongst the various stakeholder departments, to provide input on what the report should contain.

Mr Mokulubete noted the report would be submitted to a social worker or SAPS member. When DoJCD engages with these stakeholder departments on the regulations, they would then inform it of the information that the social workers or the police require from such a report to enable them to carry out their functions.

On the penalty for failure to do a full risk assessment, in terms of clause 23 inserting section 18B, directives would be developed by various stakeholder departments. This clause outlined what the directives should contain as well as the process. A determination would then be made on what penalties should be imposed in case of non-compliance with the directives promulgated by the Directors-Generals. This was a matter that would be dealt with during the development stage of the directives and therefore he did not want to pre-empt this as well.

On the exclusion of the police from assisting the complainant with information, section 2 in the current Act already required the police to render this assistance to the complainant. The police were therefore excluded in clause 4 where this requirement was extended to peace officers.

On proving that a person had knowledge or suspicion of a domestic violence act spoke to the offence created for failure to report a domestic violence act. DoJCD did not include requiring the police to investigate that. This offence was intended to discourage non-reporting by bystanders who were aware that someone was a victim of domestic violence. One would never understand what really prevented persons from taking steps against respondents. If a person was aware or suspected someone was a victim of domestic violence, they should report it – but if they do not, this was then a commission of an offence. How would it be proved that the person knew? As a domestic violence matter is reported to the police or a social worker, in some instances evidence arises through the investigation carried out by the police that points to someone had knowledge that there had been a commission of a domestic violence act, and then commission of failure to report could arise. However, the intent was not for the police to investigate if someone knew a particular person was a victim of domestic violence.

Ms Pillay stated that the financial implications had been covered by Ms Letswalo. DoJCD did not envisage exorbitant additional financial pressures. The improvements in the legislation must be done within the current budgets of the relevant departments. The reference group that was convened before DoJCD introduced the Bills included all relevant department such as SAPS and the Department of Social Development which advised on the financial implications.

Consultation was canvassed by DoJCD but due to Covid-19, it could not undertake a broad public consultation process before it introduced the Bills. However, consultation was covered extensively by the Portfolio Committee.

Deputy Minister closing remarks
The Deputy Minister said most of the questions were covered. The National Assembly's Portfolio Committee did a lot of work on the Bills. It completed the SORMA Bill first but it did not pass it because these Bills were effectively a package, and so it could make further amendments where necessary.

Several issues were considered such as whether the NRSO should still be used or if the SAPS Criminal Record Centre should be used instead. After many engagements with the police and DoJCD, the Portfolio Committee's decision was to keep the NRSO. This decision was extensively canvassed as well as the definition of 'vulnerable persons'. Spiritual abuse was highlighted by the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and amendments were made to that particular clause. Another point was that the introduced Bill had a duty on everyone to report, but this was removed for some of the reasons highlighted in the Portfolio Committee's report.

The Deputy Minister said the National Council of Provinces must also apply its mind to the Bill, but since this was a section 75 Bill, the NCOP could pose amendments to the Bill rather than amend it as it would with a section 76 Bill.

The Department hoped to get these Bills finalised so that these could be implemented because it believed that this would make a real difference to GBV and to sexual offences.

Closing remarks
The Chairperson noted there were no additional questions. The Committee would still engage on these three Bills going forward and there would be ample time to raise further questions if Members had concerns or if they were unsatisfied with DoJCD’s responses.

Mr Dodovu asked if the laws applied retrospectively.

The Deputy Minister replied that laws generally did not apply retrospectively. If a person’s name had to be on the NRSO, that would be retrospective because the whole purpose was to protect people from sex offenders. If a person was convicted of a sexual offence in the past, although they did not know it when they committed the offence, their name would go onto the Register. This was the case with sex offenders who raped or committed sexual offences against children and people with mental disabilities. This was the only aspect that was retrospective as a person could not be found guilty of committing a crime that was not a crime when they committed the act, but the names on the NRSO would be retrospective.

The Chairperson said the crux of the Bills was that it was important for GBVF victims to get justice and to have confidence in the justice system. The Committee welcomed DoJCD’s commitment to ensure the Bills were victim-centred and to strengthen the criminal justice system to ensure these Bills became law to improve efforts to address GBVF.

The Committee recognised the urgency to finalise these Bills. The Chairperson noted the President’s plea to the NCOP for these Bills to be processed urgently.

The process for advertising the Bills for public comments had already begun and the Committee looked forward to receiving these. The Committee would reconvene after the recess and deliberate on these Bills.

The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister and his team, as well as the NRSO Registrar for the constructive and informative inputs. The meeting was adjourned.

Share this page: