Police Minister Bheki Cele. Photographer: Phando Jikelo /African News Agency (ANA)
Willowvale - Police Minister Bheki Cele has called for male police officers to be barred from handling cases of sexual violence, including rape, because they liked engaging in what he called “second torture” where they interrogate even the type of clothes the complainants were wearing.

“Male police officers handle sexual violence cases in a manner that is unfair and discriminatory toward victims and even interrogate their attire as if they were fashion advisers,” said Cele while addressing residents at Nqadu Great Palace in Willowvale in the Eastern Cape on Friday.

Cele seems to be referring to SAPS crime statistics showing that, from 2008 to 2018, incidents of sexual assault dropped from 69197 to 50108. But they, in fact, show a decline in the number of cases reported rather than in the number of crimes committed.

He appealed to all station commanders to ensure that cases of sexual violence were reported to female officials in a bid to ease the burden on victims.

“I'm appealing to station commanders, including the provincial and national commissioners, to make sure that in every police station there are female (officers) to handle cases of sexual violence.

“Female officers understand these cases better than their male counterparts, who ask things like why a woman was wearing a mini-skirt. It’s not your mini-skirt, so stop being so preoccupied with it. We want to stop the second torture and harassment of victims of sexual violence by male officers,” said Cele.

However, the head of justice and violence prevention at the Institute for Security Studies, Gareth Newham, said while female officers may be less likely to subject a survivor of sexual assault to secondary victimisation, it is not as simple as that.

“Each police station should have an adequate number of officers who are properly trained in handling such cases and held strictly accountable for adhering to the set standards,” said Newham.

A social worker who works with victims of sexual violence agreed with Newham, saying replacing males with females would not solve the problem. She told of an incident where a rape survivor went to a police station and was attended to by a female officer.

“She was bruised and battered and her eyes were swollen from all the crying she had done. Yet the female cop screamed from across the room and demanded that she speak up while other people were watching and listening.

“They need to train these police officers. They also need to recruit people with a passion for the work, irrespective of gender. What if the victims are male? These people have to be trained, monitored and disciplined if they break the rules. Also create areas where victims can report rape away from the glare of other people.”

Cele and national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole were speaking in the Xhosa kingdom where he launched the Traditional Policing Concept, which aims to foster a policing partnership between traditional leaders and police.

Manned by police officers working with selected members of the community, the concept will be based at all six kingdoms in the Eastern Cape and will be closely monitored by police cluster commanders. The six kingdoms are the Xhosa kingship in Nqadu, Rharhabe in Mngqesha, Western Thembuland in Qamata, AbaThembu in Bumbane, AmaMpondo in Ndimakude and AmaMpondo ase Nyandeni.

Sitole said that by partnering with traditional leaders police wanted to change the “Western approach” of policing to a traditional approach.

“By turning local folks to become community patrollers we are demonstrating that it is possible to work together in fighting crime,” said Sitole.

Eastern Cape police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga said the concept would improve the police's response time as rural folks would no longer have to call urban-based police stations to report crime. “This concept came as a result of the memorandum of understanding between SAPS, Cogta and the National House of Traditional Leaders. We are happy that it is finally taking off, knowing very well that traditional leaders have closer relations with communities they lead,” said Ntshinga.

She said the concept would include programmes such as a victim-friendly centre, a missing persons reporting service, sexual offences, certification of documents, victim support and the issue of protection orders in domestic violence cases.

The Eastern Cape MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, Weziwe Tikana, said co-operation between communities and police was needed as criminal incidents were rife in both cities and rural areas.

Sunday Independent