Police Minister Bheki Cele has warned that police officers who mistreat victims of gender-based violence will be harshly dealt with.
Cele made the commitment during a security cluster dialogue themed ‘Improving access to justice for victims and survivors of GBV and femicide’ on Monday.
During August, which is commemorated as Women’s Month, a slew of reports of women being raped, maimed, and murdered continued to dominate the media.
From April 2020 to date, 14 777 suspects were charged in relation to GBVF, said Cele.
In the first six months of 2020, a total of 217 life sentences were handed down to 251 accused from 200 dockets of domestic violence.
“The FCS [Family Violence, Child Protection, and Sexual Offences] unit has made significant strides in securing justice for victims, and detectives continue to put together watertight cases to secure multiple life sentences,” said Cele.
While the FCS continues to be beefed up with more officers to handle the caseload, officers within stations continue to undergo specialized sensitivity training in order to provide a professional service to the victims.
“The treatment of victims and survivors with compassion and professionalism is a policy of the SAPS [South African Police Service]. However, the treatment of some complainants of domestic violence at stations remains a concern.
“Police [officers] who choose not to comply with the policy by turning victims away don’t have a place in the SAPS,” said the Minister.
Such acts, he said, are a dereliction of duty, “which is a serious offence that warrants [action].”
The Minister said a police directory will soon be made available at police stations across the country. The directory will contain every contact number of every police station, station commander, the National Commissioner, Police Minister, and Deputy Minister, and all police officers in leadership roles.
Cele said this will enable citizens to escalate complaints until they are assisted.
“If anyone feels they’ve been let down by any man or woman in blue, they can contact the GBVF complaints line: 0800 333 177,” said Cele.
Cele said the brutal killing of women is a shame.
“It’s a fact; men commit these heinous gender crimes. It’s often men that the women [victims] know, men they love and trust, and men that they expect protection from.”
He emphasized that GBV remains a priority for the SAPS.
“We continue to improve and intensify the combatting, prevention, and investigation of crimes against women of all ages, sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression.”
Cabinet has tasked the JCPS cluster to ensure that GBVF victims and survivors get access to the criminal justice systems. The system must be efficient and sensitive to the needs of survivors.
Time for change
Cele said SAPS is making progress in resourcing specialized units that deal with GBVF, both in funding and human capital.
“We have an FCS that has trained specialist detectives to investigate gender-based violence.”
The shortage of rape kits, the Minister said, has been resolved and will not be an issue for the next three years after a supplier was recently appointed.
“Things need to change. Change must be at our stations – from the most junior officer right up to top management. The change must come from our homes, our communities, boardrooms and other places of work, schools, places of worship, educational institutions, and all public spaces,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said the country should be focusing on fighting against COVID-19 instead of men making women’s lives “impossible”.
“Women don’t do these painful things to themselves. The perpetrators are men. Yes, it has to start with the communities. Every woman must be able to walk the streets of a free South Africa, without the fear of being tampered with,” she said.
Cabinet recently adopted the National Strategic Plan for GBVF, which was developed by the government, in conjunction with civil society. – SAnews.gov.za