Domestic Violence Bill [B75-98]; Maintenance Bill [B72-98]: hearings

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Justice and Correctional Services

17 August 1998
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

JUSTICE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 August 1998
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BILL [B75-98]; MAINTENANCE BILL [B72-98]: HEARINGS

Documents handed out:

Submissions on the Domestic Violence Bill

Black Sash
Commission on Gender Equality
Family & Marriage Society of South Africa (FAMSA)
Gender Advocacy Programme (GAP)
National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL)
South African Council of Churches (SACC)
South African Human Rights Commission
Women & Human Rights Project, Community Law Centre

Submissions on the Maintenance Bill
Black Sash
Maintenance Action Group
Mapumulo Magistrate
Magistrate Kuhn
Maintenance Assistance Services
National Association of Democratic Lawyers
South African Human Rights Commission
South African Law Commission

SUMMARY
The Minister of Justice, Mr. A. Omar, spoke on the Domestic Violence Bill and the Maintenance Bill. His speech was followed by the presentation of submissions by Black Sash, SA Law Commission, Maintenance Action Group and a magistrate.

DETAILED MINUTES
The Minister of Justice stressed that the aim of the Domestic Violence Bill is to ensure that the values of dignity and equality which underpin the constitution become real. The Minister believes that there are practical steps which can be taken to achieve this aim. Violence against women and children, real equality for women and dignity of women and children are issues which need to be addressed and rectified over a short period of time rather than a very long period.

The Minister commented that the features of the Bill were good and mentioned the possible constitutional problems. The Minister instructed the Committee to consider the constitutional problems but at the same time remain focused on providing the maximum protection for women and children. The Minister stressed that the idea of the Bill should not be to break up families but to protect the sanctity of family life and therefore the Bill goes far beyond law enforcement.

The Minister envisages greater community involvement in the fight against domestic violence. He therefore proposes the establishment of justices of the peace in rural areas to issue interim orders. The Minister did heed the concerns of the SALC with respect to this proposal and stated that the peace officer will have limited powers which were subject to review by a magistrate. Also there would be close co-operation and guidance by the magistrates. The Minister also envisaged training programs for justices of the peace and there are donors available to fund such programs.

With regard to the Maintenance Bill the Minister made it clear that the Bill was an interim measure to provide for urgent relief and that the SALC is working on legislation that will have more far-reaching effects. The Minister went on to a future plan which will allow for women to have payments made into their bank accounts. This would mean that they no longer need to go to court and wait in long lines sometimes in vain. Women will as a result have more control of their financial matters.

Questions:
Mr Mzizi (IFP) wanted to know how would the computerisation of maintenance payments help in controlling the failure to pay or late payments.
The Minister replied that modern systems can be easily serviced and are more reliable and would also easily pick up late payments and failure to pay.

A member wanted to know about the rural population and also people with very little money who would not be able to maintain a minimum balance in a bank account.
The Minister said that the Department is in talks with financial institutions and chain stores. What has surfaced from these talks is that even the rural population will be accommodated.

Black Sash: Domestic Violence Bill
Ms P Mncayi's submission dealt with the fact that the Domestic Violence Bill does not address traditional practices against women and gave three options as outlined in the submission document.

Ms A Tilley went through various clauses. She said that her organisation felt that the broad definition in the Bill is good because stopping something like verbal abuse pre-empts the physical abuse. She also said that the suspended warrant is a good provision and that the clause obliging police to act was reasonable because police are reluctant to act in cases of domestic violence.

The chairperson suggested that the Minister's proposal could go a long way in dealing with the problems raised by Ms Mncayi.

SA Law Commission: Maintenance Bill
Mr P Smith of SALC dealt with duty of support, certain procedural aspects and the problem of the execution of maintenance orders.

Mr Smith said that because the Bill repeals the whole Maintenance Act, no procedure will exist for duty of support.

He also dealt with clause 17 which requires another court order on top of the original order to recover payments from the respondent. The SALC want the recovery of payments to be possible without an additional order.

There are also problems with the execution of a maintenance order because the respondent first needs to be convicted. This was said to be too onerous on the applicant depending on the maintenance. SALC is of the opinion that an order of court should be respected and the warrant for execution should be obtained immediately.

The chair thanked the presenter and said that these were relevant points which need to be considered by the committee.

Maintenance Action Group: Maintenance Bill
Ms N Sekoba presented this submission which dealt with practical suggestions for a new Maintenance Act. The chair said that the suggestions to the department and the SALC were.

Ms Govender (NP) commenting on the point raised by the presenter dealing with statements made by judges and magistrates, said that one needs to look at how to take action against those who act disgracefully.

Mr K Kuhn (Pietermaritzburg magistrate) : Maintenance Bill
In this submission the magistrate simply commented on the proposals contained in "Maintenance Law Reform: The Way Ahead", a paper published by the Department of Justice. No questions were asked.

The meeting was adjourned for lunch.

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