A Letter to the President

President Cyril Ramaphosa
The Presidency of South Africa

Dear Sir,

RE: RESPONSE TO THE APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER BATHABILE DLAMINI AS MINISTER FOR WOMEN IN THE PRESIDENCY

Firstly, we congratulate you on your appointment as the President of the ANC and President of the Republic of South Africa. We have noted with much interest the presentation of your State of the Nation Address and welcome the commitment you made to address corruption, in particular, for taking seriously the former Public Protector’s State Capture report, including considering engaging civil society through coordinated seminars and meetings.

The Shukumisa Coalition, the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC) and the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC) are institutions that work hard to ensure that social justice and human rights are a reality for all people in South Africa. In particular, we work to ensure that women’s right to live free from violence, particularly sexual violence, is enjoyed by all people living in South Africa.

We hereby express our disappointment and concern at your appointment of Mrs Bathabile Dlamini as the Minster for Women in the Presidency.

Minister Dlamini is currently fighting a constitutional court order that seeks to hold her personally liable for costs related to the failure of the South African Social Service Agency (SASSA) to deliver social grants using a corruption free payment process. Since women are the main recipients of social grants in order to care for their children, as a result of this failure the poorest and most vulnerable are at risk. Her refusal to accept advice or obey court orders against the Department of Social Development show a lack of accountability that we believe she would take with into her new appointment. For this reason we believe that her appointment shows that you do not place value on holding your cabinet ministers accountable for their poor performance and that you do not value the role of women in society.

The Department of Women has a very important role to play in the Integrated Programme of Action to Address Violence Against Women and it is evident from her track record at the Department of Social Development that Minister Dlamini’s performance was not sufficient to ensure that this Action Plan was in fact implemented within the proposed time frame. She also did not consult with civil society. We believe that Mrs Dlamini’s appointment as Minister for Women in the Presidency will undo all the efforts made to address gender stereotypes and gender based violence, and that our government will not take sexual offences seriously going forward. This is despite you, Mr President, stating that violence against women is an epidemic.

We believe that the person mandated with leading the Department of Women needs to be an exemplary and visionary leader, and a gender rights activist who is open to working collaboratively and hearing the voices of many different stakeholders. She must stand firm in being accountable to those she claims to represent. The Minister for Women must have a solid grounding in issues pertaining to violence against women and must conduct herself in a manner that does not rationalise or exacerbate violence against women. There is no room for error in this regard.

In light of the above serious concern that the Presidency is very aware of we request that you reappoint a capable and qualified Minister to take the responsibilities of this office seriously in the best interest of the women, children and vulnerable groups as you commit to rebuilding the country and restoring the human dignity of people, which we believe you are capable of doing.

We look forward to your favourable response. In addition, we will also avail ourselves should you require more clarity or further details concerning issues we raised in this letter.

Yours sincerely,

The Shukumisa Coalition
The Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)
The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC)
The Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC)

To get in touch with us, please contact the Shukumisa Coordinator, Aniela Batschari:
Tel. 021-447 1467
Cell. 082-546 4261
Email. shukumisacampaign@gmail.com

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Section 55 What??

By Kathleen Dey

I am having such a bad attack of FOMO right now. Today a National Forum on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act concludes its deliberations in Johannesburg and while activists from all over the sector are there I am not. And they are all being very quiet about the content of their discussions, out of respect for our colleagues in government and the spirit of the dialogue.

This National Forum is convened by the Department of Justice with the backing of the Deputy Minister John Jeffery and organised by a steering committee that included members of the Shukumisa Coalition representing civil society. What makes this gathering unique is that the 250 delegates include not only members of civil society organisations, government departments and state services providers such as the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) but also members of the judiciary. Since magistrates play a critical role in the adjudication of sexual offences cases and are often not represented in these kinds of discussion this is a huge bonus. My Fear of Missing Out grows as I write.

Yesterday’s programme included the presentation of critical research by research institutes such as the South African Medical Research Council’s recently released report entitled Rape Justice in South Africa. The combined presentations pointed to current problem areas within the areas of reporting, investigation, medicolegal services, support to survivors, prosecution and adjudication of sexual offences cases. There was, unusually, no question time or commentary in this plenary. This was followed by breakaway sessions where government officials and state service providers were given opportunities to provide further information on these problem areas in a more in depth fashion. The overall approach of the ensuing discussion was designed to be solution focused, with civil society organisation offering constructive criticism and recommending solutions designed to benefit all stakeholders.

The current political and economic situation in South Africa is so severe that we believe that we are unlikely to see the kind of resource mobilisation we would like to see in support of improved implementation of the Sexual Offences Act. In fact over the past decade we have seen a significant reversal in the gains that were made prior to that in putting infrastructure, personnel, training and services in place. There has been a marked decline rather than the consistent improvement reported by government. Sexism, racism and attitudes that lead to secondary victimisation of complainants continues to be a problem.

Statistics and reporting are unclear and inconsistent, which makes it very difficult to monitor progress towards set goals. In fact our current crime statistics give a false impression of excellence, showing a decrease in incidents when this is not the case. Strategies based on these misleading findings are in danger of failing as they are not based on an accurate analysis of the situation.

Performance indicators for officials within the criminal justice system are not successfully promoting good performance neither are they entirely useful as mechanisms for holding individuals or departments accountable. Some provide a perverse incentive in that they encourage poor performance when for example members of the SAPS are measured by the decrease in reported rape statistics when in fact they should be encouraging reporting. Management structures are weak and leadership is lacking. These factors combine to make oversight very difficult.

These flaws can be seen in the roll out of the promised sexual offences courts, an issue right at the top of the agenda of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign. There are sexual offences courts where there is specialised infrastructure in place but not enough skilled and experienced personnel and no services, sometimes meaning that there is a lack of psychosocial care for survivors. Section 55A of the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill, which would allow for the Minister of Justice to establish these courts and set certain criteria for these courts has not yet been operationalised even though the president has signed this new law. There are no minimum standards for sexual offences courts and no sexual offences court regulations in place as yet.

A focus on the sexual offences court roll out may help government to tackle problems with courts as well as police and forensic investigations since the idea that specialist personnel would work together could best be promoted with these courts as “centres of excellence” linked to surrounding Thuthuzela Care Centres, forensic units and Family violence, Child abuse and Sexual offences (FCS) Units. We should therefore focus on the following suggestions for government role players at the upcoming national forum:

1. Section 55A of the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill must be operationalised as soon as possible.

2. Civil society organisations need to be given a chance to give input into the minimum standards on sexual offences courts as well as the regulations.

In addition to this we need to recommend that:

1. The functioning of the relevant departments and service providers within the criminal justice system be evaluated by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) in order to develop an improvement plan that will give rise to revised performance indicators.

2. Clear, consistent, disaggregated, integrated statistics are collected, collated and shared.

In the meantime, in the absence of improved performance indicators, we need to see competent officials concentrated within centres of excellence so that infrastructure, personnel and services can come together as they should. Let us hope that this incredible National Forum meeting will deliver at least some hope that these suggestions will be taken up and driven forward with the commitment they deserve.

 

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Kathleen Dey is director of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust. 

Stop the Bus! – Day 6 (Trip 2) – Time to say goodbye

Stanford - the final day of the workshop

Stanford - the last day of the workshop

This morning we headed to Stanford where we continued with the workshop. The topic today was care for the caregiver.  We also had a networking meeting in Hermanus where the needs, problems and resources within the Hermanus, Gansbaai, Pearly Beach and Stanford communities were identified and to build better capacity and finding ways of broadening the network of support for rape survivors. Moreover, we visited the hospital, the police station and the Regional Court in Hermanus in connection with the Shukumisa campaign to see whether the rape survivors’ rights and services within the system are followed.

The team has found this journey very rewarding and interesting and we all agreed that the needs for the support of rape survivors in the area visited were vast. We will close this enlightening journey with a quote from Soren Kierkegaard: “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself”.

From the networking meeting in Hermanus

Some of the participants from the networking meeting in Hermanus together with Eleanor

Goodbye and thank you!

Goodbye and thank you!

Stop the Bus! – Day 5 (Trip 2) – Understanding rape

Catherine having a talk about myths and stereotypes regarding rape

Catherine having a talk about myths and stereotypes regarding rape

Today we continued with the capacity building workshop from day 2. The main topic for discussion was understanding rape. Also the pathway through the Criminal Justice System, the legal definition of rape, the new law on Sexual Offences which was implemented in 2007 as well as myths and stereotypes regarding rape such as “all rapists are mentally ill” were addressed.

At around 14 am. some of the team members went to the Community Health Centre in Stanford where we met the operational manager. She informed us that the services for rape victims were poor in this area and the survivors were sent to the hospital in Hermanus. Moreover, this Centre does not do the forensic examination, but it is done by the police station. The only services they render to the victims are that they give them PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) which is an anti-HIV medical treatment, and this has to be taken within 72 hours after the rape in order to have its effect. Also they get offered medication for the side-effects of PEP at the Clinic.

After this very challenging and rewarding day the team closed the evening with having our debriefing and planning for the grand finale tomorrow.

Jemima giving an excellent presentation of victimization

Jemima giving an excellent presentation of victimization

Peliswa and Eleanor together with employees at the Stanford Clinic

Peliswa and Eleanor together with employees at the Stanford Clinic