By Eleanor Momberg
Members of the police's family violence, child protection and sexual offences (FCS) units in Gauteng have received their marching orders, and will take up positions as normal detectives at police stations across the province on Tuesday.
This was confirmed by police spokesperson Director Selby Bokaba, who refused to comment further on the "redeployment" of the members saying he did not want those affected to read about their transfers in the media.
"This affects the entire policing in Gauteng; it is not just about certain units so some members will not be affected," said Bokaba. Information about the transfers would be communicated "when the time is right".
Reports that the FCS and other specialised units would be disbanded have abounded for several years, with police saying the moves were aimed at improving expertise at police-station level.
Members of the anti-hijacking unit, the former narcotics bureau and the endangered species protection unit are among those who have already been redeployed to police stations. NGOs and unit members confirmed experts employed in the FCS were informed of their redeployments on Tuesday, and that they received formal notification on Thursday. As of Tuesday the FCS units in Gauteng, the first province to be affected by the move, would cease to exist.
Child and adult victims of rape, family violence and abuse will have to report to their local police stations where detectives will handle their cases.
The redeployment of particularly the FCS has been criticised by opposition politicians, child and women's rights groups, who slammed the lack of consultation about the change, saying the move was detrimental to child and women victims of rape and abuse.
Mike Waters, social development spokesperson for the Democratic Alliance, said service delivery would be hampered as cases already under investigation would be sub-divided between the police stations where FCS members would be stationed.
Waters was concerned about the fact that there were no offices for the members to report to on Tuesday, that they had no phones or desks and that police stations did not have the specially equipped interview rooms the FCS had to interview children and rape victims about their ordeals.
The DA and the Ithemba trauma and rape centre called on Charles Nqakula, the safety and security minister, to intervene in line with government's policy of no tolerance of crimes against women and children and reverse the decision to scrap the units.
"He should rather create more child protection units around the country," said Waters.
Phillip Stoneman of Ithemba said they worked closely with Benoni FCS whose members had been redeployed to Daveyton and Tembisa, assisting the unit by doing the forensic examinations, medical exams such as blood tests, providing medical treatment where required, and helping victims of sexual offences, child abuse and family violence through trauma counselling.
Carrie Shelver of People Opposed to Women Abuse said the crisis that already existed was being made worse by the actions of police management.
"There are already an unacceptably high number of cases that are thrown out of court
and countless don't make the point of prosecution because of poor investigation," she said.