In a reply to a DA Parliamentary question, the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, revealed that of the 4 058 individuals that were charged for Gender Based Violence (GBV) since the announcement of lockdown in March, only 130 have been convicted. This translates to a conviction rate of only 3%.
It is beyond question that, as a result of the low conviction rate, the justice system is letting down the victims of GBV by exposing them to potential re-victimisation.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) will be submitting follow up questions to Minister Bheki Cele asking him to provide clarity on:
The status of the cases for the 3 928 perpetrators of GBV who were charged but have never convicted; and
What is being done to provide protection for the victims whose abusers are yet to convicted?
While the DA welcomes the recent introduction of the three bills to tackle Gender Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF), namely, the Criminal and Related Matters Bill, the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, and the Criminal law (sexual offences related matters) Amendment Bill - all of which are still open for public comment - immediate steps must be taken to send a clear message to perpetrators of GBV that their behaviour will not be tolerated.
We can no longer afford to pay lip service to what is evidently a 'war' against defenceless women and children. A low conviction rate for perpetrators of GBV sends out a wrong message which emboldens them to continue with their abusive behaviour. Our justice system needs urgent reforms to change this trend and ensure adequate protections for victims.
President Cyril Ramaphosa's government has to match its words with actions on GBV by ensuring that adequate funding is made available to eliminate the scourge.
The Department of Social Development recently introduced the Victim Services Support Bill which aims to bring victims to the centre of the justice system in order to ensure that the rights applicable to a perpetrator are also extended to a victim. As members of the Social Development committee we were nonetheless shocked to learn that budget cuts for the Department were imminent and that this would impact implementation of legislation.
This is completely opposite of what the government has committed itself to in fighting GBV. Unless a serious commitment is made by the national government to address the underlying causes of this national crisis, South Africa will always hold the dubious honour of being a dangerous place for women and children.