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Cape Town -
Police take less than 12 minutes to respond to a rape in progress in the Western Cape, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa says, a statement Rape Crisis finds “weird”.
To be exact, it’s 11 minutes and 47 seconds.
Responding to a complaint of rape that has taken place or to an attempted rape takes 15 minutes and 56 seconds.
Mthethwa’s figures were given in his written response on Monday to a question from a National Council of Provinces member, Onell de Beer, of Cope.
Rape Crisis director Kathleen Dey said: “The matter of response time is a weird statistic as many rape survivors (take time) to come forward.”
Rape Crisis had received complaints about rape victims waiting a long time for a police vehicle to take them for tests.
Other issues were that investigations took a long time and there was a lack of co-ordination between the police, forensic facilities and Department of Justice.
“The police have to build a system of confidence so women can report incidents immediately.
“Police have to think of themselves as being part of the chain,” said Dey.
Lisa Vetten, gender activist and researcher at the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, said it was difficult to agree or disagree with Mthethwa’s claims as many rapes came to light only after they took place.
She said: “Most victims usually go to the police station to report incidents. The issueis not how fast they respond, but knowledge of the law dealing with rape by police officers.
“It’s their attitudes towards rape survivors and how they treat them when they report the crimes that is a problem.
“If the police respond to rape incidents quickly then that is wonderful. But I would rather have him tell us how much training has been done by police officers to be able to deal with sexual offences.”
De Beer said he had posed the questions because of the state of the police service. He disagreed with Mthethwa’s statement and said many people had complained about police reaction time.
He said training of police officers to deal with different crimes was “questionable”.
“I don’t think police are trained well enough. They have to be trained regularly to deal with the needs of society. Now we are faced with the increase in rape cases and it seems we have been caught off guard. When they are dealing with rape cases they are not sensitive enough,” De Beer said.
Mthethwa listed the police stations which recorded the highest numbers of rapes in the Western Cape as Kraaifontein, Mitchells Plain, Harare, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Delft, Worcester, Nyanga, Mfuleni and Thembalethu.
Mthethwa did not reply to questions about the number of recorded rapes since December last year or the number of convictions. The statistics would be released only once audited by the Auditor-General at the end of the current financial year, he said.
The Western Cape has the fourth highest number of sexual offences, with 9 153 last year.
The highest is Gauteng, with 12 419, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 12 288, and the Eastern Cape, with 9 239.
Asked about partnerships which had been implemented to support rape survivors, he said those between Community Policing Forums, other government departments and civil society organisations and the police’s special Victim Support Unit were offering support. Victim Empowerment Programme volunteers carried out debriefings at police stations. Facilities for children had been set up through the Matla A Bana project.