Mayor Dan Plato leads a demonstration calling on the City’s more than 200 counsellors to create awareness around the #EnoughIsEnough movement in all wards. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - NGOs working with women and children have issued a dire warning that the release of the sexual offenders register could lead to mob justice, attacks and lawlessness.

This after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last Thursday that he intends to motivate Parliament to make public the national register for sex offenders.

Bernadine Bachar, director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, said: “I certainly believe that it has the potential to lead to mob justice that could impact negatively not only on offenders themselves, but also innocent family members and associates.” She said the only solutions to the scourge of violence against women and children were proper policies and harsher laws.

“The high rates of recidivism of offenders (must) be addressed by the extension of appropriate programmes within our prisons for perpetrators of violence against women and children.”

Last week, a 42-year-old post office employee made a brief appearance in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court in connection with 19-year-old UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana's death.

After his appearance, angry residents in Khayelitsha set alight a house believed to be the accused's.

Siyabulela Monakali, spokesperson of women and children advocacy group Ilitha Labantu, said the government must be cautious when releasing the list.

“We need to be very careful when trying to implement something like this because when it comes to investigations into sexual violence, people who shouldn't be on the list are registered. And seeing what is happening in South Africa at the present time, we need a proper plan of action for the government to say what they will do to protect women and children,” he said.

Ramaphosa bowed to public pressure last week after anger and frustration gripped South Africans across the spectrum over the continued rape and murder of women.

The president said it was time to take tough action to deal with gender-based violence. “I wish to enumerate some of the measures we will be taking; we’re going to overhaul and modernise the national register of gender-based violence offenders provided for in the Sexual Offences Act to ensure that it is effective.

Teddy Bear Foundation director Shaheda Omar said: “This is certainly positive because the public would certainly be more informed in ensuring protection from these people.”

Omar said that mob justice, if ignited, would have to be managed. “If not managed well it could result in the law being taken into people’s hands. However, if perpetrators are brought to book and held accountable to serve appropriate sentences this violence may not be necessary.”

NGO Philisa Abafazi Bethu (Heal our Women) founder Lucinda Evans said: “Communities need to know and they need to be aware of what is happening around them. I believe that we should have stricter screening and vetting from government and I firmly agree to release the registry.”

Chrispin Phiri, spokesperson for the Department of Justice, said they are concerned that releasing the list could ignite mob justice.

“The list is available, but can only be requested by employer, employees, relevant authority, licensing authority and a person whose details are included in the register.”

Currently, there are 25501 people registered on the sex offenders list.

Phiri said there are legislative processes in place and if Parliament approves the releasing it could be sooner rather than later.

Mayor Dan Plato leads a demonstration calling on the City’s more than 200 counsellors to create awareness around the #EnoughIsEnough movement in all wards. Video: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

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Cape Argus