Movements demand safety for all

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Sonke Gender Justice and the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) have called on government to devise a national plan to address violent crime.

A recent march, organised by the TAC, was supported by advocacy groups, Sonke Gender Justice, the SJC, and Public Transport Voice (PTV), among others.

The organisations and their supporters marched from Town Two to the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court and later to the Khayelitsha police station to confront the justice system on challenges facing residents of the city’s townships.

The organisations claimed that statistics show the police and courts are in a state of disarray, unable to deal with criminals.

Waving placards with bold messages such as “Gender-based violence costs the country”, and “Rape is wrong”, the protesters chanted freedom songs while waiting outside the court for the court manager to collect their memorandum. They shouted repeatedly, “phantsi ngerape, and crime”.

Another placard demanded from Minister of Women in the Presidency, Susan Shabangu, a “national strategy plan on gender-based violence”.

TAC spokesperson, Neliswa Nkwali, said the organisation had planned to hand over a memorandum of demands to the Khayelitsha court manager and Khayelitsha Police station commander.

Before reading out the memo to the protesters, she said, the intention was not to fight but to get the required treatment.

She said the TAC would continue to demand first class treatment. “We want the courts and the Khayelitsha police station to do their work properly. We want to end victimisation by police. But we feel the court can intervene to improve access to antiretrovirals. We also demand long sentences for rape and murder offenders,” she said.

Sonke Gender Justice’s Leo Mbombi said his organisation supported the march because they felt a lot has to be done by the government.

“We are here to re-affirm that we do want to work with the courts. We are here to re-affirm that we have challenges in our communities. We also call for the court and police to do something about crime. We have noticed that there is no plan to end violence on women and children.”

He also called in Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court to share with them their success rates with cases relating to gender-based crimes.

Accepting the memorandum, acting court manager Mzwabantu Mhlontlo assured the marchers that the court staff are there to serve all people. He, however, said he appreciated the marchers for reminding the court that there was still much work to be done.

He said some of the demands were not new to the court and said they are dealing with them.

“The Department of Justice knows exactly what to do. We are always at hand to help victims. This is a community centre,” he said. He promised to pass the memorandum on to the relevant authorities.

The memorandum concluded with this: “We want to work in partnership with the SAPS and other elements of the law enforcement and criminal justice system to achieve these objectives. The government is obligated by our Constitution to ensure that every person is free from all forms of violence.

“We pledge, as citizens and civil society, to do everything in our communities to address this issue and to assist the government where it fulfils its constitutional duties to ensure the freedom and security of every person.”