By Jonathan Campbell
Gertrude Somnandi is a school teacher who notices that in recent weeks one of her grade 9 pupils, Senzo, often cries quietly in class, does not speak or laugh with the other children, and his school work has been poor. She tries to speak to him about it, but he will not even look her in the eyes.
Gertrude decides to visit Senzo’s parents to see if she can help. While talking to Zandile (Senzo’s mother), Reggie (Senzo’s father) comes home. He immediately starts shouting at Senzo, calling him a ‘moffie’, and telling him to stand up to the bigger boys at school ‘like a man’ rather than running home to his mother. It becomes very clear that he is drunk. He then sees Gertrude, who he recognises as Senzo’s teacher, and chases her out of the house.
In the days that follow Senzo begins to tell Gertrude that his father has for a long time insulted and humiliated him in these ways, especially after he has been drinking, although he has never laid a hand on him. Neither he nor his mother wants to do anything about it because they are too scared. Reggie is a very big man.
Gertrude had learned about the Domestic Violence Act at a workshop for school teachers recently, given by a local NGO. She goes to visit Zandile again, who confirms what Senzo has told her. Zandile does not object to Gertrude taking this further but is not willing to bring the application herself.
Gertrude then goes to the local Magistrate’s Court, and the Clerk of the Court confirms that the Domestic Violence Act allows her to bring an application for a protection order against Reggie on behalf of Senzo, even though she (Gertrude) is not in a ‘domestic relationship’ with Reggie.
She also remembers from the workshop that, in terms of the Domestic Violence Act, the pattern of Reggie’s insults and humiliating and degrading conduct towards Senzo amounts to “emotional, verbal and psychological abuse”. These are indeed acts of domestic violence, which are unlawful, even though there has been no physical abuse.
Gertrude completes the necessary papers at the Court, and a short while later a magistrate grants an interim protection order, which is served on Reggie a few days later, calling upon him to be in court on a later date should he wish to oppose the application. On the later date, Reggie does not return to court, and the interim order is made final. Gertrude is given a warrant of arrest which she is told can be used by the police should Reggie contravene the terms of the court order.
Some time later Zandile informs Gertrude that Reggie had got much quieter since the visit by the Sheriff, and he now seems to ignore Senzo, although he is still drinking. She is hopeful though that a reasonable relationship between them can now be restored, and she is investigating family therapy. Most importantly, Senzo has become much more engaging in class and focussed on his work, and has even started to play with the other boys during break times.
RHODES UNIVERSITY LAW CLINIC HELPING YOU
The Rhodes University Law Clinic strives to improve access to justice through the provision of free legal services to indigent people in most areas of law. In addition to its New Street offices, Law Clinic staff are available to clients at the Assumption Development Centre (Konongendi), Nceme Street, Joza, every Thursday from 9am-12pm.
The Law Clinic also provides monthly workshops on a wide range of topics in order to raise awareness of people’s rights. The workshops are conducted by staff of the Rhodes University Law Clinic at various locations around Grahamstown. For more detail, please contact the Assumption Development Centre (Konongendi) or the Rhodes Law Clinic:
Rhodes University Law Clinic
41 New Street, Grahamstown
Telephone 046 603 7656