Cape Town - The justice system is failing to adequately protect women who have lodged complaints against their intimate partners and it’s contributing to the scourge of femicide.
This is according to gender-based violence advocacy group Ilitha Labantu. Its spokesperson, Siyabulela Monakali, said that from 2014 the organisation had seen a trend in incidents in which women who had existing cases against their intimate partners ended up as victims of femicide.
“There is a widespread spike in femicide and as an organisation we have been raising alarm bells in the justice system, questioning the extent to which legislation and its procedures can protect these women,” he said.
The Western Cape High Court has heard cases in which victims of femicide had, prior to being killed, lodged complaints against their intimate partner with the police.
The most recent case was that of Riaan Bitterbos, a Vredendal man who admitted to stabbing his ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth Maarman, to death.
In July 2017, Maarman opened a rape case against Bitterbos and on February 27 last year the accused murdered her. In his plea, Bitterbos admitted to going to Maarman’s home, arguing with her and then stabbing her about 11 times. Bitterbos will be sentenced on Monday. The court will also hear the trial of Goodman Nobade, a man accused of killing his wife and dismembering her body.
According to court papers, Nobade’s wife, Agnes Msizi, applied for a protection order seven months before she was murdered, allegedly by him. The court order was granted in October 2016. She was killed in May the following year.
Monakali questioned the effectiveness of court protection orders.
“We need to look at the legislative framework and scrutinise it. Yes, we have fantastic laws but they look good on paper only. They are not working effectively.
“The justice system needs to do a full introspection on the laws and procedures to protect women,” he said.
Fredelene Booysen, Sonke Gender Justice Community Education and Mobilisation provincial manager, said the shortage of police and resources in the province prevented police from protecting these women.
“For example, more police vans are desperately needed. There are often no street numbers or street lights in communities and this has an impact on how quickly police can reach women when they are in urgent need. In addition, the justice system is slow, overburdened, under-resourced and ineffectual. It is simply not working for poor, marginalised people,” she said.
Bernadine Bachar, director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Abused Women and Children, said there were still cases in which survivors were not assisted by the police in terms of the Domestic Violence Act.
Advocate Hishaam Mohamed, provincial head of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, referred the Cape Argus’s questions to the department’s chief director Praise Kambula.
Despite numerous attempts to contact her, she had not responded by the time the paper went to print.
Provincial police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said crimes against women, children and other vulnerable groups remain a priority for the police.
Potelwa added that the withdrawal of cases by complainants remains a challenge for the police.