By MAKWENA MANAKA
Joza Police Station has one of the highest gender-based violence (GBV) reporting rates in the Sarah Baartman District.
This was revealed by Joza SAPS station commander Colonel Nomsa Mtshagi at a GBV dialogue session on Thursday, 25 November, attended by about 80 people at Noluthando Hall.
The dialogue – themed “The year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke – moving from awareness to accountability” – marked the start of Makhanda’s response to the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Abuse campaign.
Mtshagi said many GBV cases are opened over weekends and that alcohol abuse was a contributing factor. She urged community members to drink responsibly.
After a sombre opening prayer by Bishop Mcuba, programme director of the community dialogue Ward 2 Councillor Ramie Xonxa emphasised the need for justice for victims of gender-based violence. “It’s time we move away from campaigning to accountability in our communities,” said Xonxa.
The Makana Rape Survivors’ Support Group (RSSG) representative emphasised that perpetrators of sexual violence are usually known to the victims. She pleaded to parents not to protect perpetrators in their homes.
“I came here to tell parents not to be silent. As parents, we must not dismiss children when their uncles rape them.”
She informed attendees that accommodation is provided for three days for women as their cases of GBV progress.
Other attendees at the dialogue included church leaders, Makana Municipality and Sarah Baartman District officials, Joza Community Police Forum (CPF), the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Department of Social Development (DSD), the Department of Health (DOH) and Families South Africa (FAMSA).
The NPA Sexual Offences and Community Affairs (SOCA) Unit representative informed attendees that it intends to advance policies that deter GBV.
“The reason we’re here is that the President signed the national strategic plan on GBV, and one of the pillars is accountability and justice. We want to provide support and care, and healing. We have trauma centres here in Makhanda and work with them,” she said.
She lamented the backlog of DNA testing backlog facing the SAPS. This can be detrimental to GBV cases with delays and the prolonged reliving of trauma for victims.
“Sometimes DNA is not detected because the case is not reported before 72 hours. As a resident, please go immediately to the police or hospital if you get violated so that we can take your DNA.”
She ended with a commitment to handling GBV cases with a hard hand.
“As NPA, we promise that we’ll prosecute anyone who commits GBV without fear or favour.”
Councillor Andile Hoyi stood in for the newly-elected Makana mayor Yandisa Vara who attended a Sarah Baartman District meeting.
Hoyi committed to strengthening relations between CPFs and the SAPS. He urged communities to screen CPF members to ensure they do not unknowingly recruit criminals into their structures.
“We want community police forums that look after the welfare of people,” said Hoyi.
The 16 Days of Activism against GBV is an annual international campaign started by activists in 1991.
During this period, significant dates include 25 November 2021 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Thursday 25 November 2021; World AIDS Day on Wednesday 1 December 2021; and International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2021.
Police Minister Bheki Cele recently commented on the “deeply disturbing” rate of gender-based violence at the recent release of the police’s crime statistics from 1 July to 30 September 2021. During this time, 9556 people reported being raped.
Civil society groups, such as the One in Nine Campaign, have called attention to the low reporting of gender-based violence in South Africa. They argue that it is likely that only one in every nine people reports cases rape.