Justice Minister Jeff Radebe. File photo: Candice Chaplin

Cape Town - A report is being finalised on the establishment of dedicated sexual offences courts, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said on Thursday night.

Speaking after President Jacob Zuma delivered his State of the Nation address, Radebe welcomed the focus on strengthening campaigns to eradicate the scourge of rape.

Zuma said he had ordered law enforcement agencies to prioritise cases of rape and murder against women and children.

Radebe said a task team he established a year ago to ensure that the prosecution of those who “violate women and children” was expedited, had handed him a report.

“I'm just putting final touches to it so that we review dedicated courts.”

Radebe said at least one court in every magisterial district with a high prevalence of sexual offences should be dedicated to prosecuting perpetrators.

“For example, in the Khayelitsha Magistrate's Court. If there are nine offices of the magistrate's court, the one court must be dedicated to dealing swiftly with cases of this nature,” he said.

Radebe said the state had to show its authority when dealing with cases where citizens' rights were being seriously violated.

“We've seen the outcry about the rape and murder of the teenager here in the Western Cape, but this has been a perennial problem in South Africa,” Radebe said.

He was referring to the gang rape and murder of Bredasdorp teenager Anene Booysen.

In his speech, Zuma said this particular attack showed that a collective approach was needed.

The 17-year-old was raped and disembowelled on February 1, attracting international attention to the abuse and rape of women and girls in South Africa.

“The brutality and cruelty meted out to defenceless women is unacceptable and has no place in our country,” Zuma said.

The National Council on Gender Based Violence, which was established last year, should make the campaign to fight violence against women an “everyday campaign”, he said.

The council is made up of, among others, NGOs, civil society groups, government and research institutions.

“We applaud all sectors for the campaigns that have taken place already, highlighting that such acts will not be tolerated,” Zuma said.

He said the police's family violence, child protection and sexual offences (FCS) units were continually being bolstered with increased personnel.

“During the last financial year, the units secured over 363 life sentences, with a conviction rate of 73 percent for crimes against women above 18-years-old and 70 percent for crimes against children under 18 years of age.

“Zuma said the implementation of other laws would be prioritised, including the Protection from Harassment Bill.

The bill is intended to deal with the harassment of people, mostly women, by stalkers.

“While the Domestic Violence Act also provides protection, it only applies to persons who are in a domestic relationship,” he said.

The Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill was also due to be signed into law this year.

“Once implemented, the law will assist women and children, who are often victims of this heinous crime.” - Sapa