Gender-based violence in Khayelitsha becoming more violent

Protests outside Parliament in August this year which were sparked by the rape and murder of a 19-year-old UCT student, Uyinene Mrwetyana. Photo by Mzi Velapi

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence seems way too little concern about the war on women.

Khayelitsha court senior prosecutor, Rochelle Harmse, said that the cases of gender-based violence (GBV) that they are dealing with are becoming more violent. She was speaking at the launch of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence that was held at the Khayelitsha Training Centre. “From the dockets that I see everyday, the cases of gender-based violence are becoming more violent. There is also an issue of emotional intimidation in most cases that we deal with,” Harmse said.

Organised by Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, the event saw speakers from various government departments in the security cluster and civil society – including activists from #TotalShutDown and Free Gender – debating and coming up with concrete and “actionable plans” to deal with the scourge of violence against women and children and femicide.

According to Harmse, there are many cases of women in Khayelitsha coming to courts and wanting the case to be withdrawn. “There are cases where Khayelitsha court has refused to withdraw a case because some people and victims of gender-based violence need to be protected from themselves,” she said. Harmse, who said that there is a national increase in GBV and that Khayelitsha is no exception . “I cannot tell you why that is the case, but I think there is more than one cause and that means there has to be more than one answer,” she said.

Activists from civil society organisations raised the issue of the sex offender registry of which Colonel Teshwell Paulse, from the provincial office of the South African Police Services, admitted that it is not “up and running at the moment”. The sex offender registry was one of the demands of the #TotalShutDown protest led by women last year. According to Advocate Lwandiso Kwababana from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the current sex offenders registry is for offenders of children and people with disabilities.

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Unathi Ndiki from #TotalShutDown said that they have a problem with the Thuthuzela Call Centre in that the agents lack professional conduct. “They do not know how to deal with victims of gender-based violence,” she said. Thuthuzela Care Centres operate in public hospitals in communities where the incidence of rape is particularly high with the aim of improving conviction rates and to reduce the time for finalising cases.

Funeka Soldaat from Free Gender wanted to know whether the proposal by the President to deny bail to sex offenders and rapists is being implemented. In response, the programme director and member of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on ending GBV, Nonhlanhla Makwakwa, said that the President had merely been making a proposal.

According to Ntobeko Ngalo who is a head of Mitchells Plain Community Corrections for Pollsmoor Prison said that they have 1,000 people who are on parole in Khayelitsha.

The workshop ended with a list of “actionable plans” to deal with GBV.

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