Readiness to implement GBVF-related laws: DoJ&CD briefing, with Deputy Minister, DEL DM & Min of Women

Multi-Party Women’s Caucus

26 May 2022
Chairperson: Ms K Bilankulu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

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National Strategic Plan on GBV and Femicide

In this virtual meeting, the Multiparty Women Caucus was briefed by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development on its readiness to implement the three gender-based violence (GBV) Amendment Acts.

The Committee was informed that the target date for the commencement of 3 Amendment Acts is before the end of July 2022.

The process of bringing government into a state of readiness is done jointly with civil society to promote inclusivity, support and openness. The Department is in the process of conducting the final costing of the 3 GBV Amendment Acts. There is still an inadequate numerical capacity of intermediaries. The audit will determine the exact shortages, particularly for civil proceedings

Eight working groups have been established, as part of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), which will be tasked with the implementation of the legislation. Thus far, the department has managed to draft the Service Decentralisation Delivery Model of certain National Register for Sexual Offences (NSRO) services by 30 June 2022; the development of an online platform for domestic violence protection orders, which is awaiting the date of commencement; and enhancements of the Department of Social Development’s (DSD) Probation Cases Management (PCM) Mobile App. Members were unsure if this app would be accessible to women in rural communities.

Following the briefing, the Caucus adopted its GBVF Action Plan. Members will travel across the country to engage with various stakeholders with the goal of intensifying and strengthening the fight against GBVF. Furthermore, the Caucus will conduct oversight on the current progress of implementation by state departments and entities of the pillars of the NSP on GBVF.

 

Meeting report

Opening remarks by the Chairperson

The Chairperson stated that with the passing of three GBV Bills and commitment from the rest of society, women in the country will one day overcome the challenges they currently face. Thereafter she requested a moment of silence for all of the heroines who have succumbed to GBV.

Following the moment of silence, she requested a mover for the adoption of the agenda. 

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) moved for the adoption of the agenda.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) seconded the adoption of the agenda.

Mr John Jeffrey, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, thanked Parliament for passing the Bills, however he admitted that their implementation will be complicated, particularly the drafting of the regulations.

Briefing by Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJCD) on three GBV Amendment Bills

Adv Praise Kambula, Chief Director: Vulnerable Groups, DoJ&CD, briefed the Caucus on the Department’s readiness to implement the recently passed three GBV Amendment Acts.

To assist in the implementation, the Department has established eight working groups, some of which include:

  • Media and Public Communications
  • Alignment of training material
  • Intermediary Services
  • Parole Proceedings

Some of the initiatives planned for implementation by the working groups include:

  • To amend the National Directives on Sexual Offences in line with the Amendment Act by 24 Jan 2023
  • Upgrading the National Register for Sexual Offenders (NSRO) by including metrics for vulnerable persons by 31 July 2022
  • The amendment of the determination of categories for the appointment of competent persons as intermediaries
  • The introduction of an online application system for protection orders by 31 March 2023
  • Enhancements of the DSD PCM Mobile App
  • The implementation of the Media and Communication Plan by 31 March 2022
  • The development of the Draft Service Decentralisation Delivery Model (DSDDM) of certain NSRO services by 30 June 2022

She then highlighted some of the Department and its entity’s achievements thus far, which were:

  • DSDDM has been drafted and is currently in the stakeholder adoption process
  • The draft amendment to regulations of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) have been finalised and currently awaiting approval from the Minister
  • Online platform for domestic violence protection orders has been developed and is awaiting the date of commencement
  • The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has drafted an amendment to National Directives for Sexual Offences

The target date for the commencement of 3 Amendment Acts is before the end of July 2022. In terms of the Amendment Acts the government has a period of 12 months from the date of assent to develop Regulations, Directives, and Instructions, but the aim is to deliver regulations earlier. Directives and Instructions will be delivered as per the timelines of the Act. The commencement date for the implementation of the provision for the establishment of the Electronic Repository for DV Protection Orders may be deferred to 2023 to facilitate the process of the establishment of this system and its administrator’s office.

She highlighted that the process of bringing government into a state of readiness is done jointly with civil society to promote inclusivity, support and openness. The Department is in the process of conducting the final costing of the 3 GBV Amendment Acts. Currently, it is using inadequate budget. There is still an inadequate numerical capacity of intermediaries. The audit will determine the exact shortages, particularly for civil proceedings. The Rules Board to set marketable tariffs for ad hoc intermediaries to close resource gaps. 

(See Presentation)

Discussion

Ms M Mothapo (ANC) proposed that the Department include both the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) and Contralesa in the National Strategic Plan (NSP) collaborative working groups. 

Ms Mananiso was pleased that the Department has an integrated plan that seeks to deal with gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) and that it seeks to utilise digital technology to ensure issues are responded to speedily. This, she added, will alleviate the fears of victims of repeated violence.

She was pleased with the Department’s decision to decentralise its NSRO functions and recommended that it work with district municipalities, to ensure that they understand the context surrounding this.

She also suggested that the Department focus on hiring young LLB graduates (and other vulnerable groups) as intermediaries.

She highlighted that the Department has not communicated the successes of the NSP, and advised that it strengthen its communication with citizens. Further, any messages should be communicated in braille and all official languages.

Dr W Druchen-Newhoudt (ANC) thanked the Department for its work in assisting the voiceless women and children. Thereafter she posed a series of questions.

One, she asked if the Department had prepared an awareness strategy, so that women and children at the grassroots levels understand the implications of the NSP, as well as the GBV amendments passed.

Two, she asked how the Department ensures that people with disabilities (PWD) have full access to the work it is conducting. Further, had the Department solicited advice from that community.

Three, she asked what steps have been taken to hold alleged perpetrators of violence in schools and institutions of higher learning, to account for their actions. Especially as there has been an alarming increase in violence against women and children.

She was pleased with the Department’s intention to ensure the inclusion of victims in the parole proceedings, as this would provide them with greater protection.

Four, she asked that the Department consider utilising deaf social auxiliary workers as intermediaries. These workers, she added, would provide access to those who are deaf and also provide training to the South African Police Services (SAPS), as they are not always prepared to deal with the deaf community.

Ms M Hlengwa (ANC) asked what the Department’s view was on the alleged rape that took place in Stellenbosch and the effect it has had on the alleged victim.

Ms W Ngwenya (ANC, Gauteng) asked the department four questions.

One, she asked if the Department has a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plan in place to monitor the implementation (and their implications) of the three Amended Acts. If so, how often would the laws be reviewed?

Two, she asked how the Department planned to ensure that women who have obtained protection orders are actually protected from the perpetrators.

Three, she asked for the department to clarify the extent to which it will work to capacitate SAPS in enforcing the GBV legislation, particularly the three amendments.  

Four, she asked if the department plans to conduct roadshows in all provinces to raise society’s awareness of the three Amendment Acts. Further, she asked whether it will look to educate communities about their rights.

Ms S Van Schalkwyk (ANC) asked when the Department will finalise the cost of implementing the Acts and how it would implement the Acts with its inadequate budget.

Ms S Lucas (Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP) mentioned that insufficient budgeting remains a problem in implementation.

She then posed three questions. One, she asked how the Department will ensure that rural women are given access to the PCM Mobile APP.

Two, she asked what documents a victim requires when applying for an online protection order.

Three, she asked how the Justice Cluster planned to coordinate its approach to implementing the applications of the amended acts.

Adv Kambula indicated that the Department would take on the suggestion to include the NHTL in its NSP collaborative working groups. To this, she requested that the Caucus recommend, to the Department, a representative from the NHTL, to be a part of the group. Traditional leaders, she added, also form part of the National Intersectoral Committee for Sexual Offences, as well as the one for Domestic Violence.

Regarding the hiring of young LLB graduates, she explained that when the Department drafted the determination (which it has received input from the general public) for categories of persons competent for appointments as intermediaries, it decided not to place age as a requirement, so that the positions are open to any individual who has the required qualification. Young people will be selected if they have the qualifications required.

Referring to the awareness programme, she indicated that the Department has informed its internal media and publications communications group that all communication must be reflective of all 12 languages in the country. It has also stressed that the group also utilises braille, to ensure greater accessibility. The use of audiovisuals already forms part of the group’s plans. She added that in June, the department will conduct roadshows in various communities across the country, with the assistance of civil society.

On the inclusion of PWDs, she mentioned that the Department has developed a national policy framework (NPF) which speaks to the accommodation of PWDs at service points within courts. Since its implementation last year, 78 courts have been made disability-friendly, with audiovisuals, large font and braille included. A coordinator is nominated at each court and verifies whether it complies with the NPF. The policy, she added, also requires that sign language organisations also assist at the courts. She confirmed that the department will incorporate the proposal to use deaf social workers as intermediaries.

Touching on the PCM mobile app, she indicated that a study found that many women in rural communities do have access to mobile internet services.

Still referring to accessibility, she highlighted that the Department needs to put aside a budget for all courts to have a 24-hour magistrate and clerk on duty. This will ensure that courts will always have someone available to assist. She added that the mobile courts, which are currently being piloted in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), should be expanded to bring legal services closer to rural women.

Referring to the online protection order application, she explained that this solution will reduce the queues in the courts and improve the speed at which cases are dealt with. Presently the department is looking at the costs of migrating further to digital applications and relying less on manual ones. To assist with the planned increase in online applications, the department will also require additional clerks of the court.

Ms Welhemina Tshabalala, DDG: Social Transformation and Economic Empowerment, DWYPD, mentioned that government is establishing rapid response teams, which are multisectorial, on the ground, as part of localising the implementation of the NSP. Teams have been set-up in the Eastern Cape (EC), Gauteng and KZN, with all key stakeholders represented. The DoJ&CD will assist in building the capacity of service providers on the ground and this will complement the DWYPD’s communication programme that is to be concluded with the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).

Regarding the increase in violence towards women and children, she said that Higher Health (HH) has implemented a 24-hour national crisis line for all students who need support for GBV and mental health-related issues. HH has also facilitated dialogues within institutions of higher learning, which focused on awareness, prevention and support of students through peer educators. Whereas the DWYPD has modalities and programmes that run through second curriculum peer to peer programmes at campuses, which seek to deal with knowledge generation and creating demand among students, so they too can be mobilised on how to access the department’s services.

Continuing on the prior point, she added that the DWYPD also does sexual GBV risk screenings. Further, it has partnered with the German Embassy on three programmes, one of which is the flagship GBV prevent in schools. This programme has already been launched in Gauteng and the EC and once it has concluded, DWYPD will evaluate it, with a view of rolling it out to other provinces. Currently, DWYPD is in consultation with civil society on a prevention strategy which will ensure that all future programmes are evidence-based and practice informed.

Ms Ntombizodwa Matjila, Registrar: National Registrar of Sexual Offences, DoJ&CD, indicated that the Department has begun engagements with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on the process that needs to be followed when vetting any teacher who comes into contact with vulnerable persons (which includes women and children). This function will be decentralised, with each and every Legal Director in the DOJ&CD performing the functions of the registrar, such as the issuing of certificates. Each provincial DBE will be linked to each regional office of the DoJ&CD in the country.

Adding on, she mentioned that the DoJ&CD has made strides in vetting educators in the private space, with the assistance of the South African Council of Educators (SACE). Thus, when an individual applies to be a teacher, SACE will send the application to the department for vetting. These functions will be extended to the DBE and the Department of Higher Education and Training as well.

The Chairperson asked if the Department has a timeframe on implementing the decentralisation of the NSRO functions.

Ms Matjila said that the Department has set the implementation for 30 June, after which all provincial DBEs will be able forward the applications to the department.

Adv Kambula mentioned that the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act (CRMAA) made certain changes to the bail application system, one of which is that prior to acceding with the accused seeking bail, the prosecutor must hear the victim’s concerns so that the magistrate takes a balanced approach during his/her consideration.

On the protection of victims, she highlighted her belief that there is a conflict between Section 9 of the Constitution, which promotes equality and Section 35, which speaks to the rights of those detained and the accused amongst others. However, the Constitution does not contain a dedicated provision for the victims of crime. To address this gap, government developed the Victims Charter but this is not enforceable. Presently the Department of Social Development (DSD) is developing the Victim Support Services Bill (VSSB), which looks into providing those rights to victims of crime. The DoJ&CD believes that at some point Section 35 of the Constitution should be amended to include these rights.

She admitted that the Department has not yet developed a M&E system for the monitoring of the three Acts but it will do so.

She informed Members that a NPF for the management of sexual offences was tabled in 2012 and was reviewed in 2017, however, this process was paused in 2018 for various reasons. Though the draft is ready and will be tabled alongside the implementation and M&E. In addition, the DoJ&CD plans to develop a NFP for domestic violence and tie it with the NSP. This process, she added, will also include a M&E system and the involvement of civil society.

Referring to the protection orders, she said that the Department has looked at how other countries have strengthened the implementation of protection orders. To improve on this, it has placed two provisions, one which requires that the court may issue a safety and monitoring notice, while the other requires SAPS to be in constant contact with the survivor without the perpetrator being aware.

Further, the Department has developed a safety plan with the NHTL and the NPA, which will be reviewed by the Medical Review Council. The safety plan requires that if in danger, victims identify rescue persons that you would notify, such as the SAPS; that they identify an escape point from their home; that they pack a light bag in the case of escape; and that they identify a safe space to stay. Victims who live with their abusers are provided with a lipstick holder containing a number for immediate assistance. The department, she added, wants this plan to be aligned to the three Amendment Acts.

She explained that the department wants to include the provision that every adult person has the obligation to report abuse or suspected abuse of children, women and elders, in the DVA. Failure to do so will be regarded as committing a crime. This is to ensure accountability.

Regarding the costing of the three Amended Acts, she said that the department is not pleased with how it has budgeted for legislation thus far, as this has slowed implementation. To correct this, Rape Crisis has been included to assist the Department in its budgeting for the GBV Acts. She felt that budgeting should look at doing more with less, particularly with the current budget cuts. Also that the Department needs to look into multi-skilling approaches.

She added that the Department has requested for the DSD to return the VSSB, so that it can recommend additional provisions. It is hoped that the second draft will be ready by the end of June for scrutiny.

Ms Boitumelo Moloi, Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour, asked the Department to comment on the allegation of a nine-year-old girl in Limpopo recently giving birth. She asked which law allowed for parents to consent to such an occurrence.

Adv Kambula stated that Section 54 of the Criminal Law Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act criminalises the failure to report any sex crime or suspicion of, towards a child. A nine-year old cannot give consent according to South African law.

The Chairperson thanked the DoJ&CD for the work it has done thus far.

She then indicated that the Committee would consider and adopt the GBVF Action Plan.

GBVF Action Plan

The Chairperson said that the Caucus will begin its oversight programme on SAPS (on the availability of rape kits and DNA Backlogs), the DSD (on the victim shelters), the NPA (Thutuzela Care Centres) and the Department of Justice and Correctional Services (sexual offences courts) in Free State, EC and Gauteng.

Following this, she requested a mover for the adoption of the Action Plan.

Ms Mananiso moved for the adoption of the Action Plan as amended.

Ms Mothapo seconded the adoption of the Action Plan as amended.

The meeting was adjourned.

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