Update on GBVF-related matters: DWYPD (with Minister), SAPS & DoJ&CD input

Multi-Party Women’s Caucus

24 November 2022
Chairperson: Ms K Bilankulu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Multiparty Women’s Caucus convened on the eve of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign to engage on gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) related matters. The idea of the campaign is to integrate the outcomes into the overall national strategy, to combat crimes against women and to eliminate the obstacles that have been frustrating progress towards achieving greater gender equality, and the safety and security of women and children.

The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) briefed the caucus on South Africa’s 16 Days of Activism Campaign for no violence against women and children under the theme: ‘Socio-economic Rights and Empowerment to build Women’s Resilience against gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF): Connect, Collaborate, Contract!’. The South African Police Service (SAPS) provided an update on progress with the implementation of measures to support the safety of victims who reported GBVF cases, interventions to conduct investigations, and an assessment on progress with the elimination of DNA backlogs. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD) updated the caucus on progress with the re-establishment of sexual offences courts, the elimination of GBVF case backlogs, and the decriminalisation of sex work.

The 16 Days of Activism Campaign commenced with the launch of the national event and the opening of the Women’s Trade EXPO at NASREC in Gauteng on 25 November 2022. Women empowerment and inclusivity were the underlying motivations for the event. Members were concerned that rural business women would be excluded from participating in national events due to logistical challenges. In recognising the difficulty faced by rural business owners to travel to Gauteng, the Department would be embarking on the introduction of trade fairs in provinces to accommodate rural business women. Fund raising efforts would be launched to extend trade opportunities at provincial level to ensure access for more for women to attend the trade fairs.

The SAPS developed a medium-term plan for the establishment of victim-friendly rooms (VFRs) to support the safety of GBVF victims. It is anticipated that 20 VFRs would be operational at police stations by the end of March 2023. An additional 60 VFRs would be established during the 2023/24 financial period and a further 59 is planned for the 2024/25 reporting year. By 31 March 2022, the GBV Desk had been implemented at all police stations to improve the handling of GBV cases by the SAPS officers. Members raised concerns about the problematic behaviour of police officers towards women when they report GBV crimes at police stations. Members were assured that police officers found wanting are being subjected to disciplinary processes. The SAPS is providing both legislative and empowerment GBVF-related training to adequately empower its members to manage GBVF cases.

One of the demands made by the #Total Shutdown Campaign in 2018, was the establishment of a statutory Sexual Offences Court (SOC). In response, section 55A (1) of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, No 32 of 2007 was amended to provide for the statutory recognition of SOCs with effect from 7 February 2020.  All 299 courts attached to regional divisions, including the Ministerial Advisory Task Team on the Adjudication of Sexual Offences Matters (MATTSO) courts, are able to deal with sexual offence matters. A Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill was developed from the Status Report on the Investigation on the Decriminalisation of sex work. The Department was aiming to serve the Bill in Cabinet on 30 November 2022 with a request to have it published for public comments and to finalise the process by the end of the year.

The Committee found the level of violence against women and children disturbing. Members said

the scourge of GBVF should be treated similarly to the Covid-19 interventions in terms of purposeful planning and execution of activities. They made proposals to strengthen specific programmes and interventions.

Meeting report

The Chairperson reported that the Ministers of Police and Justice had tendered apologies. She was grateful for the presence of the Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities. She reminded Members that women’s rights are human rights. The campaign for women’s rights should start in the workplace and at home where women are not supporting each other.

Minister’s opening remarks
Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities, said the 16 Days of Activism Campaign would begin on 25 November 2022 on the International Day of no violence against women and girls. It is a long-standing United Nations global initiative which aims to galvanise support for the fight against GVBF. At the national level, government adopted the campaign in 1998. It has since evolved into a broader campaign against GBVF. Over the years, a horrific increase in GBV cases had been observed, especially against elderly women, the LGBTQIA+ community, women migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers. The rights of sex workers are continuously being violated. The South African Gender Assessment conducted by the World Bank and the Department in May 2022, highlighted the high levels of GBVF in our country. Women have marched and petitioned to help turn the tide and are determined and resilient to continue to claim that ‘we shall overcome’. The theme of the campaign is: ‘Socio-economic Rights and Empowerment to build Women’s Resilience against GBVF with the clarion call to Connect, Collaborate, Contract!. The theme sought to strengthen opportunities for the economic empowerment of women by consolidating programmes that had been implemented over the year. Many women are stuck in unworkable relationships because of economic considerations. In response to the call for women empowerment and inclusivity, an exhibition would be launched on 25 November 2022 at the NASREC EXPO site. The event would signal the beginning of the fight for economic freedom because women should choose to be in a relationship for good reasons and be able to walk away when her safety is threatened. The 16 Days of Activism Campaign follows the Presidential Summit held at the beginning of November 2022.

DWYPD Presentation
Ms Ranji Reddy, Chief Director: Research and Policy, DWYPD, said the activities of the 16 Days Campaign were aimed to give effect to the sub-theme of Connect, Collaborate, Contract. Activities would kick off with a national event on 25 November 2022 with the opening of the Women’s Trade EXPO and the launch of the 16 Days of Activism Programme. The Gauteng Men’s Forum would be held on the same day. The specific date in December for the Men’s Forum in the North-West province was still to be confirmed. The DWYPD Maintenance Programme in Mpumalanga would be taking place in December on a date still to be confirmed. Activities of provinces and other departments have been highlighted on a detailed calendar.
Ms Reddy explained that a platform was created to engage women’s businesses. The need was identified to extend trade opportunities to the provinces to accommodate businesses with perishable products. Opportunities were created for 400 women-owned business to exhibit their products and services at the Trade EXPO. Each province would be supporting the participation of at least ten businesses. Women were also mobilised to participate as buyers. National departments would be promoting the women-owned businesses in their sectors. The Women’s Economic Assembly (WECONA) has partnered with the Department to support women businesses at the EXPO. The event would be starting off with a crossing to the Morning Live show on the SABC. The media would be present at the venue for the entire day.


(See Presentation)

SAPS Presentation
Lt Genl Tebello Mosikili, Deputy National Commissioner, SAPS, tendered an apology on behalf of the National Commissioner. She remarked that the SAPS had incorporated matters in the presentation that were highlighted in the agenda. The SAPS would be embarking on activities in different provinces in support of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, starting today, i.e. 24 November 2022. The SAPS would be present at the launch of the national event in Gauteng on 25 November 2022.

Lt Genl. Michael Mohlala, Divisional Commissioner for Visible Policing and Operations, SAPS, provided feedback on the following issues as directed by the Committee:

Elimination of DNA backlogs
The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) is being capacitated through the absorption into the workstream of 47 interns and 26 contractors when the contract would be ending in December 2022. In addition, 28 forensic analyst posts in the Eastern Cape and six posts in the Western Cape were awaiting approval and is expected to be filled in the near future. Additional equipment had been procured for the Western Cape and Gauteng FSLs. Contracts for critical services had been established and would be managed proactively.

Implementation of measures to support GBVF victims
Progress had been made with the establishment of VFRs at police stations. The Department has a three-year plan to ensure an adequate number of facilities to attend to GBVF victims. In the interim, facilities of sister departments and NGOs are being used to accommodate victims where police stations have not yet been capacitated with VFRs. The supply of rape kits are being monitored to ensure adequate stock availability at provisioning stores. The SAPS is providing two categories of GBVF-related training to empower its members to adequately deal with GBVF cases.

Interventions to conduct investigations
The NPA/SAPS Project was established in July 2021 to enhance successful prosecutions. Since then, 20 747 cases had been prioritised for analysis as requested by the courts. The SAPS and relevant stakeholders would continue to follow an integrated approach to support GBVF victims.


(See Presentation)

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD) Presentation
Ms Kalay Pillay, DDG: Legislative Development and Legal Services, DoJ&CD, said she was requested to introduce the Department’s presentation and to apologise for the DG and the Minister not being available for the meeting.

Adv Praise Kambula, Head of Promotion of the Rights of Vulnerable Groups, DoJ&CD, drew attention to the #Total Shutdown Campaign in 2018 when participants made a demand for the establishment of a statutory Sexual Offences Court (SOC). The Department responded positively through section 55A (1) of the Criminal Law Act Amendment Act No 32 of 2007, which provided for statutory recognition of SOCs. Regulations relating to SOCs became operational on 7 February 2020. The Department has developed an Amendment Bill from the Status Report on the investigation on the decriminalisation of sex work. The Department was aiming to serve the Bill in Cabinet on 30 November 2022 with a request to publish it for public comments and to finalise the process by the end of the year.

Adv Kambula explained that challenges with backlog cases resulted from systematic deficiencies by stakeholders. The specific crime labelled as GBVF does not exist in the system but a repository was needed to record the statistics that are being collected. A 100-day rapid result system had been introduced for criminal domestic violence matters. A performance standard of 90 days was created. A protection order must be issued on the same day of application.


(See Presentation)

The Chairperson acknowledged the presence of some of the Executive Members, Deputy Ministers, and Director-Generals on the platform. She called on Members to engage with the presentations.

Ms M Meokgo (ANC) requested an update on the DPWYD’s Medium-term Strategic Framework. According to media reports, the statistics indicate that over a period of 1 035 days, 482 women and girls had been murdered and an average of 23 people get shot and killed daily. She attributed the root cause of these social ills to the lack of long-term planning. Men and boys should be engaged and included in programmes to bring about a mindset shift towards ending GBV. Adult Basic Education (ABET) programmes should be provided to address the high illiteracy level which plays a role in GBV-related crimes. She welcomed the establishment of Thutuzela Care Centres (TCCs) but felt that they should be open 24 hours a day. The scourge of GBVF should be treated similarly to the Covid-19 interventions in terms of purposeful planning and execution of activities. Young women should be empowered and upskilled through SETA programmes because women find it difficult to leave unhealthy relationships when they are unemployed. The One Home; One Garden campaign is an important intervention to assist women to gain access to land but they must be supported by the government and the private sector.

Ms M Hlengwa (IFP) stated that many bodies in Phoenix had still not been claimed after the KwaZulu-Natal floods due to pending DNA results. She asked if the outcome of the DNA results could be fast-tracked to allow the families to bury their loved ones. She wanted to know where the VFRs were accommodating persons living with disabilities, e.g. in terms of language barriers and providing safe spaces for the privacy of victims. She asked how many TCCs existed and if the locations could be made available to Members for the purpose of site visits during constituency periods.

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) found the level of violence against women and children disturbing. GBV became entrenched in the last two years and was mainly a one-sided affair. She stated that police officers who use the authority of their positions to commit rape crimes are rarely disciplined. According to research data, more than 1 000 rape cases had been reported to IPID since 2012. Up to 97% had not been convicted in court due to problems with the forensic data system. The problem remains unresolved because police officers are not being disciplined but remain on duty. She wanted to know what had been done to create safe spaces for women, since the research results has been made available in August 2021. The mental health of citizens came increasingly under pressure over the last few years, with police officers suffering the most. She asked if interventions had been implemented to capacitate police officers in dealing with behaviour rooted in mental health issues. She wished all Members well for the next 16 days as they work in constituencies to eradicate violence against women and children. Coordination of activities was important to ensure participation when programmes are rolled out to provinces. She regarded the failure to deal with pornography as the root cause of violent crime. Family bonds must be strengthened to provide safe spaces for women and girls.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) welcomed the thematic programmes that the Ministry had adopted. The 16 Days of Activism Campaign included a programme on maintenance issues in Mpumalanga. She wanted to know why Mpumalanga was chosen for this particular programme. She asked if Proudly South Africa was playing a role in the Trade EXPO to be held on 25 November 2022. She proposed that the Department request feedback from their lower structures to account for women who have benefitted from procurement opportunities. She suggested that the SAPS present in writing to the caucus, their three-year action plan to provide VFRs. She wanted to know why the 20 747 cases had specifically been prioritised. She requested a report on the number of women, youth and people with disabilities that have benefitted from supply chain management payments. She acknowledged the contribution of Adv Kambula in sharing relevant information. She proposed that programmes on the decriminalisation of sex work should be provided in indigenous languages because sex work mainly involved women from marginalised communities in rural areas and informal settlements.

Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) wanted to know what guided the decision for choosing Mpumalanga to host the programme on maintenance issues. She sought clarity on how the training process of walking away from GVBF situations would work. She asked if women from rural areas who are small business owners had been approached to form part of the Trade EXPO. She wanted to know how friendly the VRFs were to victims of GBVF. She asked what route could be followed to report problematic police officers who treat victims unfairly when they report GBV crimes at police stations.

Ms S Lucas (ANC) said the submissions were presenting a good picture of actions taken to date. But she drew attention to a community in the Upington district who marched to the magistrate’s court the previous day in protest of the release of perpetrators of crime. The experience of the community is that the justice system was not taking the plight of victims seriously. The justice system which is meant to assist was having the opposite impact on communities. Law enforcers must be trained to deal in a more sympathetic manner with victims. This approach seemed to be lacking in rural communities. Police officers in the North-West province are not equipped to deal with GBVF. As a result women, especially professional women, are being treated in a disrespectful manner when they report GBV-related crimes. People have been questioning the adequacy of the laws to protect them. An equitable share of police stations and courts was needed to ensure that people in urban and rural areas are given the same level of attention. She was pleased that plans were in place to address GBVF matters. Members of Parliament (MPs) must assist with the empowerment of women. On a radio show the previous day, she was asked why the campaign was limited to only 16 days of activism. She could explain that the campaign runs for 365 days with the 16 days of activism as the highlight of the campaign. She stated that the government was presiding over a violent society. It is the duty of MPs to penetrate communities with action to bring about a safer society.

SAPS response
Lt Genl Tebello Mosikili remarked that the presentation reflected the different training programmes in terms of legislative and empowerment training to empower members of the SAPS. New training manuals were being compiled to ensure that the new pieces of legislation are incorporated into training programmes. The SAPS regretted the case backlogs and was committed to reducing the outstanding cases by the end of January 2023. Bar the challenges of a systems crash due to loadshedding, no new cases would be added to the backlog. To address the backlog, the SAPS was working with the NPA to prioritise cases that need to be presented to the courts. She advised that the Biology Unit of the Department was addressing the DNA backlog to ensure that the bodies in Phoenix are returned to their families. The VFRs are established in terms of specifications to ensure acceptable levels of safety for victims. Police officers are trained to assist people who use sign language. The VFRs are designed to accommodate people with physical challenges but office space is made available at police stations without VFRs. Various training programmes are in place to assist officers including the Women’s Network and Men for Change initiative to engage men in the Department. She assured the Committee that members found wanting are being subjected to disciplinary processes and get arrested. She thanked Members for the input and undertook to submit further reports in terms of the demographics of the training programmes. The Department preferred to account to the Committee and to limit written responses.

The Chairperson replied that the Committee would appreciate written responses to some of the questions.

DoJ&CD response
Adv Kambula drew attention to the ‘Let’s talk Justice’ radio show which allows interaction with communities in different languages. The show is being hosted in partnership with 76 community radio stations and a few national radio stations and provides information in all official languages including Braille. The Constitution was also available in Braille. The option of making it available in audio-format, is being explored. The Department was in the process of prioritising all amendments. Six Bills had been introduced and promulgated by Parliament. The Department was in the process of compiling a handbook, to be made available to courts and civil society in print format and in different languages. The issue of pornography is being addressed in terms of the criminalisation of cybercrime offences which are contained amongst the six promulgated Bills. People should be made aware that sharing pornography is a crime. Communication service providers are to be ordered by the courts to provide detail of sources who are circulating nude photos. The number of TCCs remained stable at 55 for a number of years. The urgency placed on the matter by the NPA during 2020/21 resulted in the addition of seven more centres. She undertook to provide the detail of the TCC locations to the Committee in writing. Amongst the seven new centres are facilities placed in clinics and hospitals including in Cradock, Paarl, Upington, and Nelspruit. The 62nd TCC was launched in Limpopo on 22 November 2022. She noted the input from Members and would consider integrating the comments into the programmes of the Department.

DWYPD response
Ms Reddy said the Department took note of the statements of Members. She agreed that interventions were necessary, be they short or long-term. The Department had been engaging with the provinces on a weekly basis in preparation for the Trade EXPO. It was the responsibility of the provinces to identify women that needed support to take part in the Trade EXPO. The Department had been made aware of issues that were excluding some of the women to participate, hence trade fairs in provinces would be embarked upon to accommodate rural women. The Department will be working with WECONA and business forums to raise funds to ensure access for more for women to attend the trade fairs. She explained that selecting a province for a maintenance programme was based on a 2021 initiative. The Department held a hybrid maintenance workshop in November 2021 where a decision was made to do maintenance programmes in all nine provinces. The province must indicate and motivate when it is ready to host a maintenance programme. Limpopo indicated that it was ready. She apologised for mistakenly indicating that the maintenance programme for this period would be hosted in Mpumalanga. She agreed that a programmatic approach was needed for hosting maintenance programmes. She acknowledged that Proudly South Africa had a role to play but unfortunately the Department did not have the funding to use its services and had to manage the programme from its limited budget and with the assistance of provinces. She undertook to provide information on the procurement spent in writing. A Rapid Evaluation of the disaggregation of data was done in 2021/22. The challenge was that only six of the nine provinces responded positively. The report was adopted by Cabinet on 23 November 2022. The Department would welcome an invitation to present the report to the Committee.

Ms Reddy stated that the underlying theme of this year’s programme is based on Pillar II, which was dealing with Prevention. The financial element should not be a factor in a woman’s decision to walk away from an unhealthy relationship. Women should be personally and economically empowered and capacitated to be resilient enough to rebuild their lives. She found the comments had stimulated the thinking of the Department about a number of issues that needed to be addressed.

The Chairperson thanked all participants for their comments and responses.

The meeting was adjourned.

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