“How are we as a nation going to combat gender-based violence when the police fail to get the basics right?” said Action Society media spokesperson Kaylynn Palm.
Yesterday, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) launched its report on police stations’ readiness to deal with gender-based violence. The CGE visited 66 SAPS stations countrywide, including 13 of the 30 GBV hotspots identified between March to September 2021 by the police.
A huge concern for Action Society highlighted in the report is the high number of case withdrawals by victims. For example, in Nyanga in the Western Cape, 28 rape and two domestic violence cases were withdrawn by victims. In addition, the Free State and the North West had higher incidents of cases being withdrawn by women and children before court processes were completed, according to the CGE report.
Some reasons for the withdrawals include delays at the forensic laboratories and the implementation of external finalising of forensic evidence. The process traditionally took up to five months but now takes up to three years, delaying prosecution. Other reasons included the distance to courts and lack of finances to attend court visits.
“What the CGE is raising is precisely what happens in the field when working with GBV victims. For example, Action Society is currently overseeing a case where an ex-boyfriend physically assaulted three different women; one was allegedly beaten and kicked in and out of consciousness, another had her teeth punched out, and the other was allegedly kidnapped.
“However, one of the victim’s police dockets cannot be traced, while the other victim now wants to withdraw the case completely,” said Palm.
The CGE also found the shortage of police vehicles was problematic across the country, making it hard for victims to receive support.
“This is true; for instance, when some residents in Mitchell’s Plain, Manenberg, and Hanover Park call the police, it takes hours for members to respond. For example, one Mitchell’s Plain community worker who runs an emergency shelter for young children was choked and dragged on the ground, like a sack of potatoes, by her son. It took police five hours to respond, and when it happened again, they did not respond at all,” said Palm. “These factors discourage people from taking the matter further by reporting a case or even attending court cases.”
Action Society welcomes the data provided by the CGE, and it is critical that we put pressure on the government and SAPS management to provide more resources to police stations that lack the essential equipment to fulfil their mandate.
Action Society supports the recommendations of the CGE, which include addressing the GBVF backlogs and providing weekly updates. In addition, to capacitate forensic laboratories, advocacy, and campaigns on the implications of withdrawing rape cases.