Earlier this week, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) launched its biannual report delineating the SAPS response to gender-based violence (GBV) cases in the 2021/22 financial year. The report follows CGE’s findings of 66 police stations and Thuthuzela Care Centre (TCCs) across the country, focusing specifically on GBV hot-spots. In the main, the objective of the report is to establish the institutional capacity and readiness of SAPS, described as “the entry point of the criminal justice system”, to deal with sexual offences.
Various competencies and processes were assessed under the following thematic areas:
- status of cases – convictions, prosecutions, acquittals, and withdrawals;
- staffing structures, training and systems;
- referral systems – the availability and capacity of various stakeholders to provide holistic support to GBV survivors/victims;
- GBV and victim empowerment programme (VEP) units–; and
- the functionality of victim-friendly units and the availability rape kits.
For the most part, key findings are grouped by province. Some of the broader key findings are highlighted below:
- prolonged periods between reporting and the processing of DNA results and ballistics reports from forensic laboratories pose a significant hurdle in prosecuting cases;
- an alarming rate of the withdrawal of cases for various reasons ranging from families opting to deal with domestic violence internally and the exploration of mediation proceedings.
- nationwide staff shortages at police stations and wide variations in training levels impede effective service delivery;
- disproportionate accessibility to psychological support networks for victims/survivors who reside in middle-income areas in comparison to those residing in peri-urban areas, rural communities, and informal settlements;
- Despite most stations having victim-friendly rooms, almost 40% of these rooms are dilapidated which renders them dysfunctional;
- Inconsistent supplies of rape kits in stations across various provinces. For example, the Mhluzi station in Mpumalanga recorded 203 rape kits and Sun City station in the North West Province only had 2. Some stations notified the CGE that they did not keep rape kits in their precinct and had to access them from the nearest Family Violence, Child Protection, and Sexual Offences Units; and
- a disconnect between the CGE and station commanders on establishing record-keeping systems and databases.
During a news interview, Advocate Nthabiseng Sepanya-Mogale, a commissioner at the Chapter 9 institution, expressed concern over cases essentially being lost before getting to court as a result of the aforementioned systemic failures. Further, Sepanya-Mogale added the CGE’s frustrations at inadequate intervention from oversight bodies. The report and its recommendations are expected to be presented to the national police commissioner.
The report may be accessed here.
Please note: The information contained in this note is for general guidance on matters of interest, and does not constitute legal advice. For any enquiries, please contact us at [email protected].