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SAFETY AND SECURITY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 September 2007
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT (DVA): IMPLEMENTATION REPORTS 2006 BY ICD and SAPS
Chairperson: Ms M Sotyu (ANC)
Documents handed out
ICD Domestic Violence Act Report
ICD Domestic Violence Act Report – January to June 2003
ICD Domestic Violence Act Report – July to December 2003
ICD Domestic Violence Act Report – July to December 2006[will be available soon at www.icd.gov.za]
SAPS Domestic Violence Report – 1 July – 31 Dec 2006
Audio recording of meeting
The Independent Complaints Directorate was to brief the Committee on domestic violence statistics, but it was noted that the statistics were outdated, and the report had arrived late. The Chairperson ruled that there was nothing to be gained from discussing these statistics, and the Directorate agreed to do a proper formulation and present it at a later stage.
The South African Police Service reported that about one quarter of domestic violence incidents resulted in cases being opened. 95% of domestic violence took place within immediate families, but many were withdrawn either because the perpetrator was the breadwinner, or because the complainant feared that the perpetrator would be imprisoned, and would not cooperate with the prosecution. Around 80% of serious and violent crimes may have their roots in a domestic situation. It was explained that the Police had obligations under the Domestic Violence Act and compliance by the police was overseen by the Independent Complaints Directorate. There needed to be better coordination with NGOs, state departments and community based initiatives, and specialised training was needed at police stations. Questions by Members related to the high withdrawal rate, what the Act covered in terms of domestic violence, how prosecutions would proceed, reports to the Independent Complaints Directorate, and the high non-compliance statistics. The special problems posed by the rural areas, the responsibilities of police commissioners, and training of station commissioners were also examined.
The Chairperson stated that the meeting was going to be dealing with two reports from the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Independent Complaints Directory (ICD), in regard to the Domestic Violence Act (DVA), in terms of Section 18(5)(c) and (d) of that Act. She added that Parliament and the Committee took the Act very seriously. This Portfolio Committee was tasked with the monitoring of this Act, and did oversight on the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the other entities that fell under Safety and Security.
In regard to implementation, the Chairperson said that the Committee visited police stations in all provinces to get a feeling of what was happening. They recently visited training centres in Pretoria to see if the police were taking the DVA seriously and making it part of the training. From that visit she could tell that the police were doing something as far as the DVA was concerned.
The Chairperson said that she received documents from SAPS, which she went through yesterday but had received nothing from the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD). Committee members were supposed to get reports on the DVA every six months from the ICD and SAPS. Three reports were received from the ICD but they were outdated as they covered 2004 up to June 2005. She said that was not possible to do justice for the people with very outdated statistics. She said that members did not receive documents either.
Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) said that the members had only just received the documents and accordingly were unable to go through them thoroughly. He asked how the members were supposed to engage with presenters effectively in these circumstances, and how they could cover the period from July 2005 to the present if they did not receive any documents.
The Chairperson reiterated that the ICD was supposed to report to the Committee every six months, and commented that she would like to know what the problem was, as the ICD had been difficult ever since she had acted as Chairperson of this Committee.
Mr S Mahote (ANC) said that if the ICD was serious about the DVA the Committee would have received the documents in good time. He suggested that the Committee should simply move to the second presentation from the SAPS.
Ms A van Wyk (ANC) agreed with Mr Mahote. She said that there were only three slides dealing with 2006 and 2007. She said the previous reports from the ICD were also of a bad quality. She added that the ICD should not think that three slides were sufficient to be considered a report for tabling to Parliament. She made a formal proposal that the Chairperson get legal advice on how to deal with the problems in the ICD.
Mr S Ntuli (ANC) noted that the attendance of the ICD was at the cost of the taxpayer and asked what reason was given for their failure to report as did other departments.
Mr Ndlovu suggested that Members should listen to the reasons from the ICD but should then continue with the second presentation.
Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) asked that when the ICD returned to do their presentation their report be more substantial. She said they should state at which police stations they did oversight, so that the Committee would know, at the time of doing its own oversight, the areas on which to concentrate, and to be able to find out whether the ICD visits were having any impact.
The Chairperson reiterated that every time the Committee met with the ICD there were problems, and it did not appear to be a capacity problem. She had asked the Acting Executive Director to do a skills audit to find out what the problem was within the ICD.
Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) Response
Mr P Mongwe, Acting Executive Director, ICD, apologised for the “comedy of errors’” that had occurred. He said that he was unable to explain why the reports had not been given to the committee in good time. He said that he appreciated and accepted the guidelines put forward by the committee. With regard to the documents, he accepted that they would have to be more substantial.
Ms Noluthando Sihlezane, General Manager: Information Management and Research, ICD, said that the documents were given to the Committee Secretary, and she was under the impression that the reports were with the committee
The Chairperson interjected and asked her to elaborate.
Ms Van Wyk said that no report could be tabled through a Committee Secretary as they would have to go through parliament.
Mr Ntuli enquired as why the documents could not have been e-mailed.
The team from the ICD left the meeting.
South African Police Service (SAPS) Briefing.
The Chairperson said that she was impressed with the training colleges in Pretoria. In one of the Committee’s oversight visits to Mamelodi East and West police stations, for the first time they saw “super” registers. She said that it was also satisfied with the community’s response to the stations.
Commissioner Tertius Geldenhuys, Assistant Commissioner, Legal Services, SAPS, noted that one of the difficulties experienced by SAPS, in terms of the reports required by Section 18 (5)(d)(i) of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA), was the number and particulars of failure by the SAPS members to comply with these obligations.
He noted that in the event of failure to report, and in terms of Section 18(5)(d)(ii) disciplinary proceedings would be instituted and decisions that emanated from such proceedings would be taken. Section 18(5)(d)(iii) set out the steps taken as a result of recommendations made by the ICD.
He aid that 43 330 domestic violence incidents were reported to the Service, and gave a provincial breakdown of the numbers (see attached presentation). Out of the 43 330 domestic violence incidents reported, 16 245 resulted in criminal cases being opened. This meant that in 37% of all domestic violence incidents the victims were willing to lay criminal charges. Sadly, many of those charges were later withdrawn. Approximately on in three incidents resulted in prosecutions. He said the SAPS found that 95% of these cases occurred in the immediate family situation (e.g. Husband, wife and child) and the majority of the perpetrators were male. In many cases the perpetrator was the breadwinner so the victim was likely to withdraw the charges to avoid the perpetrator being jailed and the family being without income. He added that police do thorough investigating of cases only to have them withdrawn. Some police felt that this was unacceptable.
He mentioned that 87% of the serious violent cases reported to police had their roots in domestic violence.
Fifty-two complaints were received against SAPS members who failed to comply with their obligations in terms of the DVA. Of these, 2 cases were unfounded, 2 needed remedial counselling, 3 required verbal warnings, 2 required written warnings, 7 disciplinary hearings were held where the SAPS member was found not guilty, and 22 cases were still under investigation. He said that this number was high because domestic violence incidents were very volatile and it could be difficult for people to recall what actually happened at the time. Also, it was sometimes difficult to identify the member involved. With regard to cases referred to the ICD, in 8 cases there was no disciplinary action and 6 still awaited decisions. Once cases were referred to the ICD that body would do its own investigation. In terms of disciplinary action, if the case was not very serious the solution would be corrective counselling, and more serious cases would require verbal warning. If non-compliance occurred then a written warning would be given. In very serious cases there would be a disciplinary hearing and possible dismissal.
The training for members with regards to domestic violence was to ensure compliance with the Act and the National institutions. It was also geared to enable Members to develop the necessary skills to deal with the incidents of domestic violence in a sensitive, professional and efficient manner.
With the passing of the Act, 1771 commanders and trainers from every station and area were trained. The trainers were then responsible to train the remaining members in their respective provinces and divisions before the Act came into operation. Training on domestic violence was included and now formed an integral part of the Basic Training Programme for new recruits since 2000.
During the reporting period, 5 002 new recruits underwent the Basic Training Programme, which included training on domestic violence. 70% of all members specialising in Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences cases completed specialised training. This included training on the handling and investigation of cases involving domestic violence.
As part of In-service Training, 4 628 members were trained in the handling of domestic violence incidents during the reporting period. At present all station commissioners were receiving further training on their specific roles in this regard.
In respect of each case reported to SAPS involving domestic violence, a detective was designated to conduct a full investigation and present the docket to the Public Prosecutor. Failure by a member to comply with an obligation imposed in terms of the Act would constitute misconduct. Disciplinary proceedings were instituted against members who failed to comply with their obligations unless the ICD directed otherwise.
Ms Kohler Barnard said that the figure of 37% of domestic violence incidents resulting in court cases was particularly low. She asked if SAPS was paying attention to the victim and was the victim given any form of protection.
She also asked if SAPS had a number of cases that were withdrawn, and if it was possible to get the numbers for those who ended up in court, as well as numbers of convictions.
Mr Ntuli noted that cases would perhaps be withdrawn because people felt that the police had done nothing when they reported the incident. They may report to the police a few more times, and he feared that after a few incidents there may be a death. He asked if the police did follow ups of the cases that were withdrawn, to see if the there had been a reoccurrence of the violence.
Comm Geldenhuys said that the decision to lay a complaint was with the complainant.
Ms van Wyk said that as the withdrawal rate was so high, perhaps the Act needed to be amended, and give SAPS further powers to follow up on cases that were withdrawn.
Comm Geldenhuys reiterated that in terms of the DVA, it was not in the hands of SAPS to close dockets or carry on an investigation of a case or withdraw a charge.
Ms van Wyk then mentioned a station in Philippi where the register could not be found during one of the committees’ oversight visits. When it was found it was incomplete. It was inspected once every two months, yet there were no comments on these problems. She asked what could be done so that this did not happen again. She then asked how they could improve request to SAPS about the compliance aspects.
Mr R King mentioned that the number of cases reported the Northern Cape figures being high. He asked if this was because of better policing.
Mr R King (DA) also asked for an explanation of what the Act entailed, and to define the domestic relationship in terms of the Act.
Mr Ndlovu asked to whom the SAPS reports when it dealt with domestic violence cases.
Asst Comm Geldenhuys replied that there was no one crime of domestic violence as it took many forms. He gave the examples of socio-economic and verbal abuse, which were not perceived as crimes. The decision to proceed with or withdraw the case was made by the complainant; as the police alone could never close a docket or withdraw a charge. They would merely open a case, and the complainant would be asked questions and the answers recorded, then the docket would be forwarded to the prosecutor to decide whether the case should proceed. It was difficult to ascertain what took place in each incident and it was also difficult to decide exactly what domestic violence was, in terms of the legislation. In terms of the procedure, apart from SAPS sending through dockets for prosecution, he noted that SAPS reported to the ICD.
Asst Comm Geldenhuys said that all provincial inspectors reported to the national evaluation inspection, so that not only would mistakes be corrected but guidance would be provided to demonstrate how things should correctly be done. He agreed that attitudes should change and linked this with South African society. South Africa was still a male dominated world. This included the SAPS, who were also used to doing things in traditional ways. However, they were working hard to change and so far progress had been made. To date liaison between the ICD and SAPS had been difficult, but now the two were working on a provincial level so that the liason relationship would be improved. Also in regard to attitudes, and the difference between the provinces, he said that if the station commissioner had the right attitude, then domestic violence would be better dealt with at his station.
Comm. Geldenhuys added that the most serious problem with domestic violence was the combination of alcohol and emotions, as the two did not mix happily.
Mr Ntuli wanted to know whether the figures presented also covered the rural areas.
Asst Comm Geldenhuys (SAPS) replied that the figures were a national reflection. He pointed out that in rural areas the local culture had its own way of dealing with these matters, and domestic violence tended not to be reported. had a mechanism of how to deal with domestic violence; these cases were not reported.
Mr Ndlovu asked why the ICD had to investigate domestic violence.
Ms Van Wyk explained to Mr Ndlovu that the ICD investigated the actions of police, in terms of how they dealt with the domestic violence legislation and cases.
Mr Ntuli asked what the responsibilities of a police commissioner were, and how he must deal with a subordinate if there were inefficiencies.
Asst Comm Geldenhuys responded that the station commissioner had to deal with matters himself, and would also file a report with ICD. He explained that if every case that was filed went to court, then people would not come forward to report it. People needed to become empowered and therefore counselling and shelters were provided so that the victim was able to make the right decisions regarding the relationship with the perpetrator of the violence.
Ms Kohler-Barnard asked why the station commissioners had not been trained with regard to the Domestic Violence Act before they were placed into their positions.
Asst Comm Geldenhuys indicated that they were working from a different angle in terms of domestic violence. The training of commissioners did not replace in-service training used to deal with many social issues.
Mr Mahote agreed with what had been said, and explained that the questions showed that not everyone had fully understood the issues surrounding the Act.
The meeting was adjourned.
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