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Cape Town - Police and justice officials have delayed the implementation of the Protection from Harassment Act which President Jacob Zuma lauded in his State of the Nation address as a “mechanism to protect women”.
The day before Zuma’s speech, MPs from the portfolio committee on justice and constitutional development met to lament that, well over a year after being signed into law, the authorities had still not moved to enact this legislation, which is intended to protect people from stalkers.
When he opened Parliament this week, Zuma said: “While the Domestic Violence Act also provides protection, it only applies to persons who are in a domestic relationship. The Protection from Harassment Bill also deals with harassment by persons who stalk their victims by means of electronic communications.”
But the MPs had meanwhile met the previous day and expressed their “extreme dissatisfaction” that the legislation, signed into law in 2011, was being held up by dilly-dallying on the part of the police and the justice department.
Both departments are supposed to draw up a series of directives for their officials. MPs called them to account, asking them to explain why it was taking so long to put into effect this law, which would allow those being harassed and stalked to apply for protection orders, even in cyber cases where the perpetrator was unknown.
ANC MP John Jeffreys asked officials for a list of what still needed to be done.
Lawrence Bassett, chief director of legislative drafting at the Department of Justice, said the regulations had to be published. They also needed to consult with the minister of finance regarding the tariffs which would be paid to electronic communications service providers for providing information requested by the police investigating stalking cases.
The regulations were now ready for publishing, and the department hoped that colleagues at the National Treasury would expedite a meeting with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Bassett said.
“We’re hoping to get it done by the end of (this month),” he added.
This was, however, met with scepticism by MPs, who pointed out that Treasury officials would be preoccupied with preparing for the Budget scheduled to take place at the end of the month.
The SAPS advocate, Philip Jacobs, said police management still needed to complete the national instructions, set out to maintain standards of policing the law, and promised this would be done by the end of the month. He could not say why it had taken more than a year to complete.
Committee member Deborah Schafer said: “I want you to express to the police my extreme dissatisfaction with these delays.”
She said she had already received queries from people wanting to know when the act would come into effect.
“Why is this taking so long, are the police not serious about harassment?” Schafer asked.