“I’ve been silent since 2018, but now I will tell my story, unlike the women like me who never got the chance,” said Janelle Laattoe, a survivor of gender-based violence. “I had to endure postponed court appearances for over a year, my abuser walked free, assaulted three other women and now my docket disappeared. But I am speaking up, and this is not how my story will end.”
To shine the spotlight on how the criminal justice system fails victims of GBVF, Action Society, in cooperation with Philisa Abafazi Bethu, allowed Janelle Laattoe to tell her story today.
Janelle finally had the courage to make a case against her abusive boyfriend in 2019. He was arrested and made several court appearances over the following year and a half, but the case was provisionally withdrawn in December 2021. In January of 2022, Janelle started demanding her case be put on the court roll. Nothing happened. Out of desperation, she reached out to Action Society, who took on the matter.
After 15 calls to the Delft police station and various physical visits, Action Society and Janelle learned that Janelle’s docket could not be found. In addition, her last statements were not digitally captured.
In contrast with South Africans celebrating women during August, the country’s criminal justice system fails miserably in supporting victims of gender-based violence and femicide. As a result, there is no cause to celebrate.
Lucinda Evans, the founder of Philisa Abafazi Bethu, added that nothing has changed for women from the 1956 struggle to 2022 and that it is worse being a woman in South Africa now.
“The system is failing our women and children,” said Ian Cameron, the director of community safety at Action Society. “But we will continue seeking justice for Janelle and every other woman and child in this situation, even if we have to start from scratch.
“We understand that the SAPS members work under tremendous workloads with minimal or lacking resources. It is a dire situation. We look to the minister of police, the entire criminal justice system and the government to admit their failure and to start taking effective action to prevent the severe onslaught against women and children. No more acting for TV cameras and showing up to win votes. We need accountability.”
Action Society had long been suggesting the following solutions to crime in South Africa:
- Do a skills audit in the SAPS to determine the merit of appointments and sack members not appointed on merit.
- Polygraph all members – starting with leadership – to determine whether they have been involved in any corrupt activities; if so, sack them.
- Restore crime intelligence capabilities.
- Reinstate specialised units that can effectively deal with serious violent crime without living in the community where they work.
- Crime kingpins, including those with state connections, must be targeted and taken out of operation.
- Restore reservist capabilities, specifically to support specialised units. It is of utmost importance that these reservists do not come from the said communities for intimidation to be limited.
- Pay police members properly.
- Implement police devolution in the Western Cape as a proof of concept.
Find the presentation here