President Cyril Ramaphosa has revealed that government is working to reduce the gender-based violence case backlogs at forensic laboratories and is also developing a tracking mechanism that will be rolled out in January next year.
Ramaphosa was speaking at the launch of the 16 Days of Activism at the Witboom police station in Ga-Seleka near Lephalane in Limpopo on Monday morning.
He said the national and provincial 24-hour call centres to deal with complaints against SAPS and legal officers in matters of gender-based violence are up and running, and they have achieved their target of attending to all complaints within seven days.
He said a project to reopen unresolved murder and sexual offences cases has already begun in the Eastern Cape and will soon be operational nationally.
Ramaphosa said the SAPS has allocated 312 new recruits currently undergoing basic training to the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units and that nearly 4,500 SAPS members have also received training on the provision of survivor-centred services.
“To date 7,000 rape evidence collection kits have been distributed to police stations countrywide and Limpopo received 700 kits in the first week of this month,” he said.
“This crisis of violence against women and children is a great shame on our nation. It goes against our African values and everything we stand for as a people. We grew up being taught that as men and boys we must respect women and protect children. We were taught to never, ever raise your hand against a woman. But we have lost our way,” Ramaphosa said.
He said key aspects of the R1.6billion Emergency Action Plan announced two months ago are being implemented and government is on schedule to meet the six month target.
The plan focuses on improving access to justice for survivors, prevention campaigns to change attitudes and behaviour, measures to strengthen the criminal justice system, and the creation of economic opportunities for women who are vulnerable to abuse.
Ramaphosa said 11 regional courts across all provinces have been identified for upgrade into Sexual Offences Courts and that new CCTV systems that allow survivors to testify in privacy have been upgraded at 38 regional courts.
“Government employees who work with children and mentally disabled persons are being vetted against the National Register of Sex Offenders. To date, over 1,200 officials have been vetted, including prosecutors and members of the SAPS,” the president said.
“To ensure that those found guilty of gender-based violence receive punishment proportionate to the seriousness of their crimes, we are in the process of reforming existing laws around bail and sentencing.”
“The success we have registered so far in implementing the Emergency Action Plan is the fruit of collaboration between government, civil society and the private sector. It demonstrates what we can do if we work together.”
By: Lucas Ledwaba