Democratic Alliance (Cape Town)

22 February 2013

South Africa: Police Commissioner Must Restore Public Confidence in SAPS? Ability to Protect Women

press release

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is subjecting women to secondary victimisation of the worst kind. The DA calls on National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega to take urgent steps to restore public confidence in the police, and ensure that those who abuse that confidence are arrested.

It was reported today that two SAPS officers are currently being investigated for rape in two separate cases.

In the first case, a woman went to lodge a domestic violence case and was allegedly dragged to the trauma room of the Herbertsdale satellite police station, where she was raped by the officer who was supposed to be assisting her. The second case is of a woman in the Northern Cape who had asked a SAPS member for a lift home. Instead of ensuring that she got home safely, he allegedly raped her.

As a member of the Police Portfolio Committee I have witnessed first-hand how the SAPS allow rape-accused members to remain on duty, ignoring Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) recommendations that they be suspended pending the outcome of the trial.

It is stories such as these that undermine confidence in the police and the criminal justice system as a whole. It is no wonder that there is such a high incidence of underreporting of sexual offences if this is how women are treated by the SAPS.

In a reply to a parliamentary question last year, the Minister of Police revealed that 91 SAPS members were charged with rape in 2011/2012. Furthermore, the SAPS continuously fail to comply with the Domestic Violence Act (DVA), leaving women open to further abuse by their partners and the system.

During a presentation on SAPS compliance with the DVA to the Police Portfolio Committee last year, the IPID revealed that around 35% of the complaints it receives relate to the failure of the SAPS to arrest an abuser, and 17% to their failure to arrest an alleged transgressor where an arrest warrant has been issued.

I will be writing to Commissioner Phiyega today calling for her to take these urgent steps to restore public confidence in the SAPS' ability to protect women:

• Report to the Police Portfolio Committee on steps taken to ensure SAPS compliance with the DVA;

• Schedule training on both the DVA and Sexual Offences Act for all SAPS members; and

• Ensure SAPS members who fail to implement both Acts are disciplined.

Women must feel confident that those who are there to protect them are properly trained and will not subject them to secondary victimisation or violence. As police commissioner, Ms Phiyega must take the lead in ensuring that all members of the SAPS provide the necessary protection to women who turn to them for help.

South Africans cannot go back to fearing a uniform they should be able to for assistance.

Dianne Kohler Barnard, Shadow Minister of Police

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