Civil society body demands stronger GBV action from new Cabinet

Domestic violence is a scourge in South Africa showing no signs of abating. File Picture: Oleg Magni/Pexels

Domestic violence is a scourge in South Africa showing no signs of abating. File Picture: Oleg Magni/Pexels

Published Jul 8, 2024


Durban — The civil society organisation Mosaic calls for stronger gender-based violence (GBV) action from the new Cabinet.

Last month, the public protector released a report on the investigations into administrative deficiencies relating to the processing of GBV-related matters within the South African criminal justice system.

In the report, the public protector also highlights the infrastructural challenges that have a negative impact on efficient and effective service delivery in that court officials are unable to execute their functions in a conducive environment.

The slow network and lack of electricity leads to delays and inefficiencies in the service court officials are able to render to the public. Water shortages and broken air conditioners create an unsafe and unhygienic environment for court officials and court users experience unnecessary delays in receiving services due to the lack of availability of tools of trade such as photocopiers, scanners and computers for court officials.

“This is in conflict with the provision of section 5(1)(d) which imposes an obligation for immovable assets to be kept operational to function in a manner that supports efficient service delivery and Section 195(1)(b) of the Constitution which requires that the efficient, economic and effective use of resources must be promoted,” it said.

In its media release, the organisation stated that one notable change is the separation of the Department of Justice from Correctional Services. This restructuring is anticipated to reduce portfolio pressures and facilitate a more comprehensive approach to timely justice delivery by the sector. It also presents an opportunity for justice system duty-bearers to better serve GBV survivors with a survivor-centred focus.

The appointment of Thembi Nkadimeng, as Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development is seen as a positive step, signalling a commitment to upholding the rights of women and children as enshrined in the Constitution.

The report also stated that various courts visited, except the Point Branch Family Court in KwaZulu-Natal, do not have private/sufficient consultation rooms which is contrary to Section 10 of the Constitution, which states that everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.

This was evident from the factual inspections and interviews conducted during this investigation inter alia relating to the following courts: Pretoria, Ga-Rankuwa, Palm Ridge, Rawsonville, Upington, Galeshewe, Mothibistad, Bloemfontein, Phuthaditjhaba, and Tsheseng.

At these courts it was observed that consultation with victims of GBV takes places in shared court spaces which is not conducive to confidentiality and privacy. Furthermore, there are human resource capacity constraints at the courts visited which does not support efficient service delivery as envisaged in section 195(1)(h) which provides that good human resource management and career development practices to maximise human potential must be cultivated.

Executive director of Mosaic advocate Tarisai Mchuchu-MacMillan said the appointment of Sisisi Tolashe as Social Development Minister has been positively received.

“Tolashe’s extensive experience in civic organisations and politics positions her well to support civil society organisations working to improve communities facing high levels of poverty and violence against women and children,” Mchuchu-MacMillan said.

She said the appointment of Sindisiwe Chikunga as Minister of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities has been met with cautious optimism. “However, the appointment of Mmapaseka Letsike (Steve) brings a much-needed advocacy and feminist approach to the portfolio, and it will be interesting to see the impact she will have on this portfolio,” Mchuchu-MacMillan said.

Mchuchu-MacMillan said Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi returns as a familiar face to the portfolio of health with a history of advancing universal health and antiretroviral treatment. The challenge now is to address the complexities of post-violence care for women and children affected by abuse.

Also, the appointment of Edward Senzo Mchunu as Minister of Police is viewed as a fresh start for the SAPS, which faces the dual task of curbing crime and up-skilling officers to handle survivors of GBV, a point of concern for anti-GBV organisations advocating for survivor-centred care that ensures no survivor is re-traumatised when trying to access justice from the system.

The organisation also stated that the primary task for the new administration should be to implement a consolidated budget and clear funding allocation to enhance first responder services, post-violence care and justice for GBV incidents.

Addressing the gaps in accessing justice and care, highlighted in the public protector’s report, including system strengthening and administrative deficiencies is crucial.

It further said that the forthcoming five years are pivotal for reforming South Africa’s response to GBV and ending this pervasive issue. Civil society organisations are calling for swift, collaborative, and transparent action from the new Cabinet to protect and empower women and children across the nation.

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