SAPS & CSPS briefing on implementation of the Domestic Violence Act; with Deputy Minister

NCOP Security and Justice

16 March 2022
Chairperson: Ms S Shaik (ANC, Limpopo)
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Meeting Summary


Domestic Violence Act, 1998

The Select Committee on Security and Justice met on a virtual platform for a briefing from the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service (CSPS) on the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) No 116 of 1998.

The SAPS described its mandate in terms of Section 18(5) of the DVA, the domestic violence bi-annual reports in terms of Section 18(5)(D) of the Act, and the measures put in place to enable all victims to access services at police stations. It also explained the role of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit in the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV) and the challenges faced by SAPS officials in implementing the Act.

The CSPS provided an introduction to the DVA and a detailed breakdown of the prevalence of domestic violence in South Africa, the role of the CSPS and the provincial secretariat, the monitoring of DVA compliance and its implementation, and the status of the compliance according to the 2018/19 census statistics. It described the mechanisms used to improve compliance, such as training and other proactive measures. It outlined the challenges with implementing the DVA and the recommendations they had for each province.

A Member commented that most domestic violence complaints involved the failure to complete 508(a) and (b) forms, which had been highlighted in 2013. He asked for an explanation why this concern had still not been adequately addressed. The Committee was concerned by the rise in domestic violence incidences since promulgation of the DVA and asked if there were serious shortcomings and limitations in terms of current legislation. SAPS were asked about the practical concerns and challenges faced when dealing with domestic violence, such as entering premises or gaining the victims' trust. What was the relationship between the SAPS and community policing forums to assist in domestic violence cases? Was the CSPS in the process of creating a relationship with community and neighbourhood policing forums for the reporting of domestic violence cases and victims?

The Committee would continue to engage the Department on these concerns.

Meeting report

Chairperson's opening remarks

The Chairperson said that as part of their oversight responsibility, Members had expressed an interest in receiving more information on implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA). The South African Police (SAPS) and Civilian Secretariat for Police Services (CSPS) were invited to present on implementation of the DVA at the level of police stations.

The DVA obliged the police to report to Parliament the numbers and particulars of complaints received against its members regarding section 4(a). It refers to a failure by any police officer with an obligation imposed in terms of the Police National Instruction 7 of 1999, issued by the National Commissioner of Police.

SAPS must report on the action taken against SAPs members, including victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. SAPs must report on their disciplinary proceedings, the decisions emanating from these proceedings, and steps taken as a result of recommendations made by the CSPS concerning SAPS's non-compliance with the DVA.

On 15 July 2019, the Minister tabled the reports on SAPS’ implementation of the DVA. The period covered was from 1 April 2020 to September 2020 and from 1 October 2020 to 31 March 2021. On 23 August 2020, the CSPS had tabled its DVA monitoring report that set the implementation of the DVA from October 2020 to 31 March 2021. On 22 January 2021, the Minister tabled the latest report on implementation of the DVA, and the period covered was 1 April 2021 to 30 September 2021. The CSPS’s monitoring report on the implementation of the DVA was tabled on 1 February.

The Chairperson welcomed Mr Cassel Mathale, Deputy Minister of Police, who thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present their report on the implementation of the DVA. He indicated that the National Commissioner was not present. Those present were the Deputy National Commissioner for Policy, Lt Gen Sehlahle Masemola, the Chief Director of the CSPS, Mr Takalani Ramaru, and the Director of Strategic Management of the CSPS, Ms Itumeleng Moagi.

SAPS on implementation of DVA

Lt. Gen. MM Motlhala, Divisional Commissioner: Visible Policing, delivered the presentation. 

SAPS mandate in terms of Section 18(5) of the DVA

In terms of the DVA, the National Commissioner of the SAPS must submit a bi-annual report to Parliament. The report must contain the number and particulars of complaints lodged against SAPS members, the disciplinary hearings instituted, recommendations made by the CSPS and the broader management of the domestic violence programme.
(Further information on the contents of the report can be found in the submitted attachment.)

The prescribed reporting periods were 1 April to 30 September and 1 October to 31 March.

SAPS monitored the implementation of the DVA through the Domestic Violence National Instruction 7 of 1999.

Domestic Violence Bi-Annual Report

The bi-annual report in terms of section 18(5)(D) of the DVA from 1 April to 30 September 2021 was tabled in Parliament on 22 January 2022.

(A detailed breakdown of the statistics regarding the number and nature of complaints, departmental actions against SAPS members per province, number of complaints per province, SAPS members as alleged DV perpetrators, SAPS members as victims, SAPS members convicted of DVA offences and the seizure of firearms, can be found in the submitted attached document.)

SAPS had engaged in ongoing monitoring, which included visiting certain police stations. This was done based on the prevalence or lack of reporting.
(Further details on the monitoring and evaluation, training and capacity building, public education and awareness and the continuous improvement in monitoring the implementation of the DVA provided by the SAPS can be found in the attached)

Measures put in place to enable all victims to access services at police stations

The SAPS had 1 155 police stations, of which 1 014 of these stations had victim friendly rooms. One hundred forty-one police stations were utilising alternative rooms. One thousand one hundred two police stations, including units, had victim-friendly rooms that met the minimum required standard. Two hundred eighty-six police stations had established gender-based violence (GBV) desks, and 869 were in the process of establishing GBV desks.

SAPS implemented the DVA through the Disability Action Plan, the SAPS Case Management Intervention Plan and the GBV and Sexual Offences Action Plan.
(A breakdown of the number of victim-friendly rooms can be found in the attached)

Role of Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) in prevention of GBV

The mandated role of the FCS Unit was to ensure the effective prevention and investigation of related crimes and excellent service delivery to victims. It was also to increase the detection of domestic violence crimes.

Challenges faced by SAPs officials in implementation of DVA

(A detailed list of the challenges presented can be found in the attached.)

Recommendations in respect of improving implementation of DVA

Recommendations were provided on ways to improve implementation of the DVA, including amendment of the DVA and implications thereof.

CSPS on implementation of DVA

Ms Ayanda Xongwana, Deputy Director: Monitoring & Evaluation (CSPS), provided an introduction to the Domestic Violence Act, which included the purpose and aim of the Act.

She gave a detailed breakdown of the statistics regarding the prevalence of domestic violence. The provinces with the highest domestic violence cases were Gauteng and the Western Cape, with 9 309 and 7 780 cases, respectively. There were 30 277 domestic violence cases reported across the country between October and December 2021.

The role of the CSPS and the Provincial Secretariat was set out in the presentation. The presentation also looked at the CSPS's monitoring of the DVA compliance and implementation.

A detailed breakdown of the status of DVA compliance, as per the 2018/19 census report, was provided with a breakdown of the current status of DVA implementation. The CSPS presented the mechanisms used to improve compliance, training and other proactive measures, challenges with implementation and recommendations for each province.

[see presentation attached for further detail]


Mr G Michalakis (DA, Free State) said that 59% of the complaints had to do with the failure to complete the 508(a) and (b) forms. He referred Lt Gen Motlhala to a Committee meeting held on 13 May 2013, where the majority of the complaints had concerned the failure to complete the 508(a) and (b) forms. He asked why this concern in the last nine years had still not been adequately addressed. He asked for statistics on how many members of the SAPS were repeat offenders. Why do the Free State and Western Cape have the highest cases?

Mr Michalakis also required clarification on what happened to the members of SAPS who were the alleged perpetrators and the increase of non-compliant police stations in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. How did SAPS determine which cases were deemed serious? He found discrepancies between the information provided by SAPS and the CSPS.

His last question was why, in 67% of their cases, SAPS did not enforce the Firearms Control Act when it concerned their members.

Mr T Dodovu (ANC, North West) said the promulgation of the DVA was incredibly exciting, as it broadened the scope of the previous Act and ventured into important areas that the previous Act did not cover.

However, GBV and domestic violence incidents have escalated since the promulgation of the DVA. He asked if there were serious shortcomings and limitations in the current legislation. The CSPS had identified key shortcomings specifically in provinces, and therefore he asked if the legislation should be revisited or amended to make up for these shortcomings.

The lack of training and necessary skills to deal with domestic violence cases was identified as shortcomings. Mr Dodovu asked if substantive capacity programmes ensured those police officers were adequately equipped to assist victims in such cases and if rehabilitation programmes were available for offenders.

Ms N Nkosi (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked for further context on what happened to members of SAPS who were perpetrators and if assistance in regard to education and awareness was offered to them. She wanted to know what programmes and support were available to SAPS members who were victims of domestic violence.

What were the reasons for the non-issuing of firearms and the seizure of firearms from members? In terms of monitoring and evaluation, what action was taken against members accused of serious cases of non-compliance?

Ms Nkosi asked about education and awareness and whether one-on-one support was available for SAPS members. Were there debriefing sessions available to members dealing with domestic violence, and if so, who assisted with these sessions?

What were the challenges faced in establishing GBV desks, and what measures were taken to address them? Regarding the amendments to the DVA in slide 47, she wanted clarity on the working relationship between the SAPS, the CSPS and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD).

Mr S Zandemela (EFF, Mpumalanga) appealed to the Chairperson to have a direct communication channel with all law enforcement agencies so that provinces did not have to wait for the Committee to meet before their issues were addressed.

Ms M Bartlett (ANC, Northern Cape) asked for elaboration on the high prevalence of domestic violence cases in the Western Cape and Gauteng. She wanted to know the level of assistance given to the SAPS on a provincial basis to improve their performance in terms of DVA compliance and implementation, what was done to ensure that all police stations were fully compliant, and challenges encountered when trying to ensure this. She asked what the nature of the incidents of improper conduct by police officers given in slide 14 was and what was done to address this concern.

Ms Bartlett commented on the concerning number of police officers who were perpetrators of domestic violence and asked what was done to educate and raise awareness among police officers to reduce its occurrence. What measures were taken to address the inadequate services provided in rural areas?

The Chairperson said the questions posed by Members were extensive. She asked about the practical concerns and challenges faced by SAPS members when dealing with domestic violence, such as entering premises, gaining the victims' trust, or anything else that was not evident in the report. What was the relationship between SAPS and community policing forums like concerning assistance with domestic violence cases? She asked if the CSPS was in the process of creating a relationship with community and neighbourhood policing forums for reporting domestic violence cases and victims. She said the compliance between the SAPS and CSPS provincially and nationally was commendable but asked if the CSPS faced any challenges in getting SAPS to cooperate in terms of this relationship. She asked the Deputy Minister and the Provincial Commissioners to comment on the recommendations made to the provinces by the CSPS.

She noted that some questions required additional information in writing.

SAPS' response

Deputy Minister Mathale said the Department was at the Committee’s disposal and willing to update the Committee on any matter.

Lt Gen Masemola addressed the concern about completing forms by stating that although action was taken against members who did not comply, the problem unfortunately persisted. During their training, new SAPS members were given a module on domestic violence led by Dr Bongiwe Zulu, Divisional Commissioner: Human Resources (HR) Development. The response to the concern with repeat offenders would be submitted to the Committee in writing. Regarding the action taken against non-compliance, he referred to a slide covered by Lt Gen Motlhala during his presentation that set out the categories of action taken against non-compliance, ranging from verbal and written warnings to departmental action.

There were 139 victim-friendly rooms and stations without space for these rooms, used other facilities such as the Family and Child Support (FCS) units nearby. The stations with space for victim friendly rooms were waiting to finalise contracts for the next financial year by supply chain management (SCM).

In terms of firearms recovery, all firearms were confiscated. The numbers presented were because no police officers were issued with personal firearms, as many chose not to take firearms home due to safety concerns. These cases were most prevalent in the Western Cape. When a police officer was found to be a perpetrator of domestic violence, their firearm did not have to be seized as they had not been issued one.

Regarding possible amendment of the legislation, Lt Gen Masemola reminded the Committee that the legislation had been amended through the Domestic Violence Amendment Act. He said that Dr Zulu would address concerns about development and training capacity.

Lt Gen Masemola said that with the seizure of firearms, the law stated that firearms held by a member of SAPS who was a perpetrator of domestic violence must be seized. When members of the general public were domestic violence perpetrators, an enquiry in Section 102 was made to determine if a person was fit to possess a firearm. This was a measure to prevent further occurrences of domestic violence. There had been several cases of police officers being shot at when they went to check up on complainants.

A study determined that the high number of domestic violence cases in the Western Cape and Gauteng were due to the size of their populations.

The practical challenges concerning the implementation of the DVA included the withdrawal of cases by victims when they get to court and the pressurising of victims by family members to withdraw cases. The law was amended so that the withdrawal of cases could occur only in court in front of the presiding court official. However, a substantial number of victims tended to ask for withdrawal of cases in court.

Lt Gen Motlhala said one of the reasons for the high number of complaints was the result of intensified education and awareness programmes on a national, provincial and district level, alongside various stakeholders. SAPS was engaging civil society, including Community Policing Forums (CPFs), to address GBV and domestic violence. This was done through outreach programmes led by the Minister and Deputy Minister of Police. Through this ministerial programme, different desks for the CPFs and the inspection team were established to deal with complaints.

Regarding the high rate of non-compliance, the first level of inspection provided combined assurance that those who were non-compliant were held responsible. This was done daily at station level by the duty officers and by respective commanders, including the national and provincial inspection teams.

Referring to the relationship between the CSPS and the SAPS in the compliance forum, there was constant engagement between Mr Ramaru and himself. We look at areas where there were challenges at the national and provincial levels to ensure that all the challenges were addressed, regardless of their nature. They ensured that they worked with all relevant stakeholders in intensifying education and awareness in their communities.

Maj Gen TN Mathonsi, Division: Visible Policing and Operations, said the absence of victim-friendly rooms in a station did not mean the services were not provided. The services would still be provided using alternative arrangements, such as a local thuthuzela care centre or any other available space. On the issue of the complaints not taken seriously, he said the presentation indicated there were different categories for steps taken against non-compliant members. In some cases, non-compliance was an administrative matter that was regarded as serious only after the investigation, so the steps taken would range from a verbal warning or a written warning up to the most serious, which required departmental action to be taken.

Among the challenges with establishing GBV desks was that some of the stations were so small there was no space to establish proper GBV desks.

A written response would be provided on the statistics for cases regarding the seizure of firearms to provide clarity on the numbers presented.

Lt Gen Lineo Ntshiea, Divisional Commissioner: Human Resource Management, addressed two issues involving the role of HR management in dealing with the concerns raised, what was done for police officers who were perpetrators of domestic violence, actions taken against them, and the support provided to them.

She highlighted the outcomes of the cases that had led to disciplinary hearings. Their disciplinary regulations required that any case against a member of SAPS be dealt with by instituting a departmental hearing or a disciplinary investigation. In all the cases registered during the first semester, disciplinary steps had been initiated. Various sanctions had been placed against some officials, ranging from verbal to written warnings. Some officials had been not found guilty, and one member had left the service before they could proceed with departmental hearings. Two officials had been dismissed during the first semester of the report. There were pending cases at the end of the first semester, but now that the end of the second semester was approaching, the report would be consolidated and updated.

About the support given to police officers who were victims of domestic violence within SAPS, there was HR management and an employee health and wellness programme that consisted of professionals, qualified psychologists, and social workers. There were also proactive and reactive programmes, and debriefing sessions were available for members who were victims of domestic violence and those who had encountered traumatic domestic violence cases. Their medical aid programmes were available to members who wanted to see private psychologists and social workers. These programmes were not limited to SAPS members but were available to their family members too.

Dr Zulu responded to the concerns with HR management. She said that most of the concerns over the domestic violence training had been covered in the presentation. However, the training was not limited to the domestic violence training programme, but other concerns such as victim empowerment, which equipped police officers with ways in which they could provide victims with the necessary support. The training and development of SAPS in domestic violence also emphasised the importance of human rights. The domestic violence training programme also focused on the legislation in the Act and its alignment with another regulatory framework, which included the Firearms Control Act.

The programme also looked at the social context in which domestic violence occurred and as a means to dispel the myths surrounding domestic violence. This was to ensure that members could deal with domestic violence cases accordingly.

Responding to the concern expressed over completing the forms, she said the ability to complete the necessary complaint forms was part of the training programmes assessment. The issues generally raised were always about the accurate completion of the forms and the register, adequate attendance to the complaint, and the support given to victims. The training programme was aimed at addressing these concerns. The training programme also focused on the repercussions of non-compliance in the DVA. Information was given on administrative issues around domestic violence. The training programme dealt with many areas, and SAPS members were also assessed on their soft skills to deal with cases accordingly.

She said there were no programmes within the SAPS that dealt with the rehabilitation of perpetrators, but Lt Gen Motlhala could provide clarity on the stations, as there were engagements with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and stakeholders, where they worked together on the rehabilitation of perpetrators. Rehabilitation also occurred during the parole process.

CSPS responses

Mr Ramaru referred to the increase in the number of non-compliant stations and said the Members of the Committee had read the statistic correctly. Observations had been made that the compliant stations had moved to partial compliance and non-compliance, whilst non-compliant stations had moved to partial and full compliance.

He said Lt Gen Masemola had answered the question about the shortcomings of the legislation, but the CSPS was confident that once the amendments had been implemented, there would be an improvement in dealing with domestic violence issues.

Concerning the relationship between the CSPS, SAPS, and the DOJ&C, he confirmed that the CSPS and SAPS had participated fully in drafting the amendments. The CSPS's support to SAPS included the compliance forum that met quarterly at a national level and more regularly at a provincial level. During these meetings, identified challenges were raised and solutions to solve them were drafted. However, the implementation of these solutions was the responsibility of SAPS -- the CSPS could assist only with identification and recommendations.

The CSPS presentation had indicated that the census was done in 2018/19, and samples would be made before conducting the next census. The CSPS had visited stations and asked them to draft improvement plans that the CSPS monitored. There were also instances where joint programmes involving the CSPS, the SAPS or the provinces were identified. These programmes were meant to improve compliance levels.

Regarding what improper conduct was, he responded that it concerned instances when victims were not treated with dignity by SAPS members. These instances were reported to station commanders where action was required to be taken. An exemption could be given to members of SAPS who were not found guilty of improper conduct.

As part of the relationship between the CSPS and SAPS, a programme called the GBV Brigade was mandated to be replicated across the country. The CSPS was working with the provinces to ensure that this happened. The GBV Brigade was affiliated with the CPF, and there were programmes where CPFs had taken the DVA as part of the campaigns they needed to do to assist members of the public. This included training of traditional leaders and other safety and security structures.

He said that SAPS generally cooperated with the CSPS, but there were instances when information was not given on time. As Lt Gen Motlhala had indicated, the two of them communicated all the time. When assistance or cooperation was required, he called Lt Gen Motlhala and it was always given. The provinces could confirm this communication.

Challenges did arise but were dealt with as and when they occurred. Challenges also arose at the level of the compliance forum.

Ms Xongwana explained the discrepancies in the information provided by the CSPS and SAPS. The information was based on what the CSPS received from the SAPS national office through the compliance forum but was also complaints reported directly to the CSPS office, which meant it was not immediately available to SAPS to record. In some cases, information was not correctly recorded by police stations, and this was then picked up by the CSPS and then included in the statistics they present.

Mr M Masilo, Chief Director: Civilian Oversight and Crime Prevention, Free State Provincial Government, said that the high number of complaints in the Free State was due to the lack of command and control by supervisors and commanders at police stations. There was inconsistency with inspections in affording domestic violence offences the same level of respect and inconsistency with consequence management in implementing recommended disciplinary action. A DVA compliance forum met monthly to ensure that SAPS was dealing with issues.

Mr Ramaru addressed the concern over service delivery in rural areas and said this was a challenge for the SAPS and the CSPS because of the required special training and planning. He assured the Committee that rural police stations were also visited when monitoring was conducted, including farm police stations. This was because they were often neglected due to their distance from main centres. They ensured that issues were identified during their visits and improvement plans were drafted. The CSPS ensured that during their campaigns, rural police stations were included.

The Chairperson said that the Western Cape’s response would be submitted in writing.

Chairperson's closing comments

The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister and his team for the presentations and SAPS and CSPS for the responses. The engagement enhanced the Committee’s understanding of the implementation of the DVA nationally and provincially.

The Committee had expressed concern at the high number of domestic violence complaints, especially amongst perpetrators who were members of the SAPS, and the increase in non-compliant police stations. She asked for continual encouragement of both the SAPs and CSPS to work together to tackle domestic violence, ensure adequate support was given to victims, and that SAPS members were appropriately trained to deal with domestic violence cases.

The CSPS had raised the issue that victims should have the necessary trust that the police would deal with their cases with the sensitivity and dignity they deserved and ensure that their cases were not compromised due to administrative or procedural negligence. The Committee would continue to engage the Department on these concerns.

The meeting was adjourned.


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