South Africa watched with horror the level of incompetence demonstrated by police on a GBV related matter caught on camera in Stutterheim. Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) is disappointed by the insensitivity and incompetence of the South African Police Services (SAPS) showed in a video clip in the public domain. On the 25th of May 2022, a disturbing video circulated on Twitter, of a victim of gender-based violence attempting to report GBV at the Madeira Police station in Stutterheim. The victim was continuously assaulted by an alleged perpetrator in front of SAPS officers at the police station who appear to have simply failed on their duty.
Sonke Gender Justice is troubled by this incident, which occurred in the presence of police officers, in a place where women must feel safe and protected from harm. The South African Police Service has a duty to serve and protect the citizens of the country, but in this case, they failed to do so. This is a clear indication as to why the level of GBV is so high in this country. Perpetrators know that they have complete impunity.
SAPS’s incompetence is a disservice to the public, and especially to women and girls, who are disproportionately vulnerable to violence.
Women in South Africa continue to be violated in the face of insufficient police response. The cases of police incompetence and victimization of women and children by the police are common. Police systems do little to ensure that their own system is accountable to the community they serve. Victims find themselves looking for other ways to seek justice, unable to trust the very institution appointed in protecting them from violence.
The SAPS officer present in this case failed to act and protect the women from the abuser. This is inexcusable and cannot be ignored. It is concerning that this kind of behavior is not uncommon. There needs to be accountability for this laxity from the National Commissioner and the responsible Minister.
It is a known fact that many women opt not to report cases of GBV and even rape simply because of the nasty experience they receive from the police.
Victims of gender-based violence face numerous challenges in the criminal justice system. Sonke notes that the majority of reported cases never get prosecuted due to a lack of dedicated and trained personnel to handle such matters and to provide adequate legal information to victims. Additionally, the criminal justice system lacks adequate training, resources, and accountability as a result of decades of insufficient training and insufficient resources.
Sonke calls for gender-responsive policing efforts that prioritise survivor-centered approaches such as believing and supporting victims and survivors while holding perpetrators accountable.
Sonke demands that the SAPS, Minister Bheki Cele, and the Commissioner of Police, General Sehlahle Fannie Masemola to, take responsibility for the massive failure of their officials, whom they trained. Sonke also calls for serious consequences for SAPS officials who failed to fulfil their constitutional obligation to protect women’s rights from an abuser.
Bafana Khumalo, Co-Executive Director, and Co-Chairperson, Global MenEngage Alliance: firstname.lastname@example.org or 082 -578-4479.
Notes to editors
Sonke is a South African-based non-profit organisation working throughout Africa. We believe women and men, girls and boys can work together to resist patriarchy, advocate for gender justice, and achieve gender transformation.