TAC workshop highlights domestic violence

| Joyce Xi
Community members speak out at TAC’s gender-based violence workshop. Photo by Joyce Xi.

Khayelitsha community members voiced their concerns on how the police deal with gender-based violence such as rape.

Around 125 residents of Khayelitsha and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) members attended a workshop held on Friday at Site B.

Representatives from Thuthuzela Care Center, Khayelitsha Court, Nonceba Family Counseling Centre, Sonke Gender Justice and South African Police Services spoke.

Anelisa Koti, gender-based violence coordinator for TAC, said the event came about due to questions raised by the community. The idea was to raise awareness around gender-based violence and to educate community members about navigating the legal system in response to increasing concerns.

Site B Police Station Commander, Zithulele Dladla, was on hand to provide information and answer questions on behalf of the Khayelitsha police.

The loudest community reaction came when attendees shared impassioned accounts of police inaction and mistreatment and called for answers from Dladla. Issues raised included ignored rape complaints, police dockets going missing, and a slow response in dealing with violent crime. Community members also accused police of corruption, citing the police response to drug dealers and alleging that some police took bribes instead of making arrests.

Dladla responded that the community also failed to act against crime. He said people were upset with the police when suspects were released, and yet they were not willing to provide statements or evidence against the accused.

Dladla urged the community to report crime. He said they pay up to R5,000 to people who come forward with information that leads to a conviction. He said that many people withdraw cases with the police or fail to report the crime in the first place. The community must also take responsibility.

He said there were people who “even attempted to withdraw murder cases, saying the murder accused will cover the funeral cost”. Dladla said a case of murder cannot be withdrawn— the state has to act.

He said Khayelitsha has a very high rate of murder. In Wynberg, where he was stationed before being deployed to Site B, there were four murders for the entire year of 2010 – 2011, but in Site B he had a murder case to deal with from the day he started. He told the workshop that the police feel they had done a good job if they only had four murders on a weekend.

Dladla said he had seen children under 10 being sent to the shops by their parents after 10pm. He urged residents not to do that.

He also encouraged residents to report mistreatment by police to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, and gave his mobile number for residents to contact him if their complaints were ignored.

Dladla said he would follow up with the police on issues raised by community members. “We will be addressing management and other staff members on the ground about peoples’ concerns,” he said.

Some community members remained sceptical and concerned over the lack of police action and timeliness.

The workshop comes on the heels of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry, which found that Khayelitsha police were not meeting requirements of the Domestic Violence Act.

The Commission Report found “low levels of trust in SAPS” and “worryingly high perceptions of corruption amongst SAPS members in Khayelitsha”.

The report also found that many domestic violence incidents are not being recorded in the police register, stating “samples of registers provided by both Khayelitsha Site B and Lingelethu West were so incomplete as to be unreliable”.

Dladla said that SAPS is working to increase community trust in police, and agreed to participate in the workshop “to support our partners in educating our communities about their rights”.

Other workshop speakers aimed to educate the community about their rights and responsibilities regarding gender-based violence. Dr Genine Josias of the Thuthuzela Care Centre provided information on the law of rape and sexual assaults. She said women who have been raped can go to the centre at any time; they do not have to open the case with the police to do so. She said Thuthuzela Care Centre keeps forensic evidence, which can be given to police to strengthen their investigations. Josias also urged residents to pay attention to their children, saying that both young girls and boys are sexually assaulted.

Velile Yayi, the court manager at Khayelitsha Regional Court, also urged the community to unite and collaborate with the police if they wanted to see criminals behind bars. Yayi said when a criminal gets arrested, the community needs to petition the magistrate to keep the alleged criminal behind bars. He encouraged women to apply for an interdict if their partners are abusive and to approach the maintenance court if there is no father to support their children.

Malwande Luzipho from Sonke Gender Justice urged men to act more responsibly. He said men constitute the majority of perpetrators of gender violence. He said they should join NGOs like Sonke and learn more about being supportive.

TOPICS:  Civil Society Crime Gender Society Violence

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