The South African Police Service (SAPS)’s top management welcomes all sectors of society condemning the recent spate of violence against women and children, including the callous murder of baby Courtney Peters, Karabo Mokoena, as well as the double murder of Bongeka Phungula and Popi Qwabe.
The recent earnest conversations on the subject of kidnapping, abduction, rape, the murder of women and children and domestic violence, are very encouraging as they are raising awareness among women and men about the seriousness of this situation. The importance of awareness and education on these matters, cannot be overemphasised.
The harsh reality of most of these cases, is that they are committed by persons close to or known to the victims and they happen behind closed doors, which makes policing such crimes, very difficult. In order to overcome the scourge of women and children abuse, people are encouraged to report the matter to the police, irrespective of how trivial they may think their case is.
Any form of abuse may constitute a crime, therefore it should be reported to the police immediately. Failure to do so, may result in the situation spiralling out of control and escalating to more serious crimes, such as murder.
As the country observes National Child Protection Week from 27 May to 2 June, the SAPS again calls on community members to report any suspicion of child abuse, neglect or exploitation of children, not only during Child Protection Week, but at any given time.
Since the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, 1998 (Act no 116 of 1998), members at police stations have undergone training in respect of this Act to ensure that these cases are treated with the seriousness they deserve. This Act also forms part of the SAPS’s Basic Training Curriculum.
The SAPS currently has 1 045 designated victim-friendly rooms (VFR) at police stations and police contact points all over the country. VFRs are an extension of the community service centres (CSC). The value of a VFR is that it assists in preserving the dignity of victims by making space available where a statement can be taken in privacy, in accordance with the SAPS’s mandate. At the police stations that are not yet equipped with these facilities, a room is made available for victims to be interviewed in private.
Any member who refuses to give the necessary attention to a victim of domestic violence and sexual offences, will face criminal prosecution in terms of the Domestic Violence Act, 1998 (Act no 116 of 1998), as well as departmental prosecution in terms of the SAPS’s Regulations. Such transgression may also result in the dismissal of the member/s responsible,whether or not the member is prosecuted criminally.
Cases that are of a sexual nature and family violence, are investigated by our specialised unit called the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit. These units were able to secure 541 life sentences in the 2016/2017 financial year, which is a significant improvement on the 167 life sentences in the 2010/2011 financial year.
These units have specialised investigating officers and with the unwavering support of forensic investigators and the Forensic Science Laboratory, it is very difficult for sexual predators to escape prosecution. In June 2016, a 24-year sentence was imposed onPhiwayinkosi Ngobese for a rape he had committed 11 years ago. Last year, Bob Hewitt (a former professional tennis ace) was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for having committed sexual crimes decades ago. These successes and many others like these, are proof that the perpetrators of such crimes will face the full might of the law if cases are reported to the police.
However, the best way to overcome these problems is through prevention.
- Parents must entrust their children to trustworthy and reliable people.
- Avoid dark and lonely places.
- Report abuse and crimes immediately after they have taken place (do not withdraw cases unnecessarily).
- Always communicate your whereabouts to your family and/or friends.
- Make your whereabouts known to loved ones at all times.
- Avoid travelling alone at late hours. Always walk in groups to avoid any chance of isolation.
- If possible, avoid using public transport such as Uber, taxis and Zebra Cabs alone.
- Avoid posting sensitive information (such as your location, age, cell/phone number) on social media. This makes one more vulnerable to being attacked.
- Attend self-defence classes to help in cases of abduction or abuse.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Being alert to what is happening around you, can help in determining whether or not a situation is dangerous.
- Never accept any item from a stranger. This might put you in a compromising situation.
- Never leave your drink alone at any public space, as it might be spiked.
We urge communities to work closely with the police to break the cycle of women and child abuse. Violence against women and children violates their rights and negatively affects their ability to lead a meaningful and quality life in our communities. The onus of reporting violence and abuse is everyone’s responsibility. Every incident of abuse suffered by a child or a woman, reflects our failure to respond to the cries of the most vulnerable in our midst and it is in our power to contribute to the fight against the abuse of women and children.