Deputy Minister John Jeffery: Launch of Thembalethu Sexual Offences Court

Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP at the launch of the Thembalethu Sexual Offences Court, Thembalethu, George, 15 May 2017

Programme Director
Executive Mayor of George Councillor Naik
Regional Court President Mr Langa;
Chief Magistrate Alman
Members of the magistracy
The Special Director of Public Prosecutions: SOCA Unit Adv Thoko Majokweni
Adv Rodney de Kock, Director of Public Prosecutions, Western Cape and members of the NPA
Department of Justice Regional Head Mr Mohammed
Representatives from civil society
Community leaders
Representatives from the SAPS and other government departments
Residents of Thembalethu

Goeie more, Molweni. Good morning to you all.
We are here today in Thembalethu – which, as you know, means “our hope” – to launch a sexual offences court.

It was only last week that Thembalethu was in the news, when a 34 year old man from Thembalethu was handed a life sentence for the rape of a child, after he lured the eight year old victim into his home where he raped her.
Lengthy sentences will hopefully act as a deterrent to stop people from committing such horrific crimes.

It is also tragic to see that often heinous crimes are committed by those who are the closest to the victims.

Last week our country mourned the loss of yet another woman, allegedly at the hands of her partner.
Karabo Mokoena from Johannesburg went missing last month, with pleas for her safe return being posted on social and print media. Her body has since been found and her partner arrested.
Karabo Mokoena was someone’s child, someone’s sister, someone’s friend.

Here in the Western Cape a Paarl man has been charged with murdering his pregnant girlfriend earlier this year.
Nicola Pienaar's body was found buried in a shallow grave, buried under rubble in her boyfriend’s backyard earlier this year.
During court proceedings in the Paarl court earlier this month it emerged that the victim’s stomach was slashed and her unborn child was removed from her body and was also found in the same shallow grave.
‘n Mens kan eenvoudig nie verstaan hoe mense so geweldadig en wreed kan wees nie.
Ibe bubomi bababini - umama nomntwana ongekazalwa - kunqunyulwe ngenxa yobundlobongela.
[Translated: Two lives – a mother and an unborn child – cut short because of violence.]

We need to ask ourselves why do some men think of women as something they own – something that if they can’t have, they will just destroy?  We need to look at how we bring up boy children and what lessons we teach young men about how they should relate to women.

Violence - whether it be domestic violence, gender-based violence, sexual violence or intimate femicide - is a grave human rights violation that still plagues our society.

The launch of the Thembalethu Sexual Offences Court is on the day when the globe commemorates the International Day of Families.
The 2017 Theme for this Day is ‘Families, education and well-being’, as set by United Nations.
We chose to launch this court on this day as a way of showing out commitment in establishing a society where all families can freely enjoy the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom from any form of violence.

We are here in the Thembalethu Branch Court because out of the 135 new sexual offences cases registered in 2016/17 the Thembalethu police station had registered the largest number of cases (23) of all the police stations feeding cases into the George regional court.
Sexual Offences Court play a vital role in the fight against sexual violence.
In August 2013, the former Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development approved the Ministerial Task Team on the Adjudication of Sexual Offences Matters (MATTSO) Report which recommended the resuscitation of the sexual offences courts according to the revised Sexual Offences Courts Model.
The Sexual Offences Courts Project was established by the Department mainly to implement the recommendations of the MATTSO Report.

This project sets out 2 phases, with phase 1 being the upgrading of 57 regional courts into sexual offences courts over a period of 3 years, and phase 2 being the upgrading of 106 regional courts into sexual offences courts over a period of 10 years.

Phase 1 of the Project has ended in the previous financial year with the successful achievement of 58 sexual offences courts established, mostly at high offending areas.
In April 2017, 2 more sexual offences courts were established in Madadeni, KZN to bring the total to 60 sexual offences courts.  

The Thembalethu Sexual Offences Court is one of the 11 courts established in 2016/2017.  The Department was expected to deliver 8 sexual offences courts, and this target was exceeded by 3 courts.
With regards to Hybrid Sexual Offences Courts, currently, in instances where a court has the infrastructure to accommodate the full specifications of the Model, but does not have enough sexual offence case to sustain the expected target hours for court sitting, a Hybrid Sexual Offences Court is established. This court is referred to as a hybrid in the sense that it deals with mixed court roll, but gives priority to sexual offences cases.
The use of hybrid sexual offences courts and exclusive sexual offences courts is currently a matter of some debate and an issue that we must engage on fully.

Our Department’s Sexual Offences Statistical Report, which contains a comparison of the data between 2015/2016 vs 2016/2017 shows a decline in the number of registered cases.
In 2016/17 financial year, with 6785 reported sexual offence cases in 2016/17, against the 8476 of the year before, which is a 20% decline.
Daar is 20% minder seksuele misdrywe geregistreer in 2016/17 as in die vorige boekjaar.
Wat ons moet vasstel is die vraag of dit beteken dat daar minder misdrywe was, en of dit ‘n geval is dat minder mense na vore kom om die sake aan te meld.

Some 60% of the cases were finalised through guilty verdicts in both periods.

As to an investigation into the reasons why cases were removed for the roll, over 60% of the cases were withdrawn in both periods, which raises a concern that why so many cases are withdrawn.
I will be having detailed discussions with relevant role-players in this regard.

Government must provide the infrastructure to combat and prevent sexual and gender-based violence and must provide responsive services to victims such as:

  • the 8 Khuseleka One Stop Centres which offer a continuum of support services to victims of crime as a single service point.  Here in the Western Cape, the Saartjie Baartman Khuseleka One Stop Centre was established in Athlone.
  • The Department of Social Development is funding 102 Shelters for victims of gender-based violence and has also established 19 White Doors (Safe Houses) to provide safety and shelter services to mostly victims of domestic violence. Of the 102 Shelters, 11 Shelters are operating in the WC.
  • The Shelters that are linked to the Thembalethu Sexual Offences Court are:
  • The Rose Moore Refuge for Battered Women Phambili, George with an intake or bed capacity of 25;
  • The Creative Effective Families Shelter for Victims of Violence, George with an intake or bed capacity of 33.
  • The Department of Social Development has further established the Gender-based Violence Command Centre with a toll free number 0800 428 428 and ‘a please call me’ number which is *120*7867#. Please ensure that you know this number and make it available to persons in your schools, churches and communities. Maak asseblief seker dat u hierdie nommer ken en deel dit asseblief met u gemeenskappe – dit kan iemand se lewe red.
  • The Centre is capacitated by skilled social workers to provide telephonic counselling services and other interventions.
  • The system is able to track the physical location of the callers to facilitate speedy interventions and referrals, where necessary.
  • In 2016, the Command Centre obtained an award for technical excellence.
  • As at 31 March 2016, SAPS established 1 027 Victim-Friendly Rooms at certain police stations. The VFRs are private rooms where victims of gender-based violence are interviewed for statement taking. They provide a friendly environment that assures confidentiality, respect and dignity.
  • The SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Units are capacitated by investigation officers with specialised skills to deal with cases of gender-based violence, including sexual violence cases. In the previous financial year, there were 176 FCS Unit established nationwide.
  • In the WC, SAPS has 234 FCS Unit members and 22 Forensic Social Workers.
  •  Here in the Western Cape, there are 6 Thuthuzela Care Centres – here in George at the George Hospital, and then at Bellville, Khayelitsha, Mannenburg, Worcester, and Wesfleur.
  • The George TCC supports the newly-established Thembalethu Sexual Offences Court.

At the George Hospital you can

  • Get Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) if you have been exposed to the risk been infected with HIV  as a result of the sexual offences within 72 hours after the alleged offence; and
  • Get a compulsory HIV test performed on the accused persons.

We will also be engaging relevant government departments and civil society organisations with a view to sharpening and strengthening our implementation of the Sexual Offences Act

It is important that, as a nation, we continue to look for sustainable solutions to deal with domestic violence, in particular intimate femicide.

Hence, the Department has developed a My Safety Plan, to assist victims of domestic violence to escape unharmed from violent attacks and reach for the much needed social and economic support. The Safety Plan programme is now being rolled out in rural communities through the Ndabezitha Programme, and with the assistance of the senior traditional leaders and their wives.

Ladies and gentlemen, Aristotle said that “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
It’s about changing society’s attitudes towards violence.

In March this year, our Department facilitated dialogues on intimate femicide, during Human Rights Month, with a view to raising awareness of this scourge.
Geweld vra nie of ‘n mens wit of swart, of ryk or arm is nie.
Gender-based and sexual violence cuts across race, class and age.

That is why our Department conducted these dialogues with women to encourage women living in abusive relationships to speak out.
The Intimate Femicide Dialogues were also conducted to respond to the report compiled by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences after her visit to South Africa in December 2015.

We are pleased to announce that in this financial year, we are starting the Men’s Dialogues against Intimate Femicide to run parallel with the Women and Girls dialogues.
Patrick Shai, a well-known South African actor, has already agreed to participate in the Programme as the Men’s Champion. Patrick himself abused his wife for many years, and only when he when he was playing the role of an abusive husband, Thabang, in a scene for the program “Soul City” did he realise that he needed help.  This Soul City domestic violence scene is now among the educational DVDs shown at the private adult waiting rooms at the Sexual Offences Courts.

Also in this financial year, we will be finalizing the development of the National Prevention Strategy against Domestic Violence and Domestic Homicide in SA.

One of the recommendations made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Women is the establishment of a Femicide Watch, which would release a report every year, detailing the number of gender-related killings per year, desegregated by age and sex of the perpetrators, as well as the relationship between perpetrator and victim.

At present, there is no government Department that collects statistics specifically on intimate femicide cases, as it would fall under the category of assault, murder or general contact crimes, as the case may be.
South Africa is therefore working towards improving its data collection in this regard.
This means we are getting closer to having a “Femicide Watch,” which will be a data bank capturing the details of all victims of femicide.
I am further pleased to announce that earlier this month our Department finalised its partnership agreement with UNICEF to develop a less resourced and less costly Sexual Offences Courts Model which will respond to the infrastructural challenges mostly experienced at rural-based courts.
This is to ensure that the Department upholds right of every victim to equal protection and benefit of the law, and the equal enjoyment of rights.
Irrespective of the geographical areas and barriers, victims of crime must receive critical support services when they engage with the court system.

Dames en here,
Die belangrikste boodskap wat ons moet uitdra aan ons gemeenskappe is dat hulp beskikbaar is.

Victims must know that they are supported, services are available – do not carry the burden the pain and the burden in silence.
You will be believed.
You will be taken seriously.
You will be treated with respect and dignity.

Asikwazi ukulahlekelwa ngabasetyhini ngesisantya, ngakumbi abaselula abanje ngoKarabo.
[Translated: We cannot afford to lose more young women, like Karabo and so many others.]

As we, in the criminal justice system, fight against sexual, gender-based and domestic violence we may sometimes suffer defeats, but we will not be defeated.

I thank you.

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