In their ‘Enhancing State Response to Gender Based Violence (GBV)’ project, the Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF) and the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre seek to promote more just outcomes for survivors of rape and domestic violence. The project aims to achieve this through enhancing the capacity of civil society to hold the state accountable for delivering services to women whose rights have been abused. In partnership with local organizations, communities are encouraged to engage with their leadership on identifying priority interventions for local government in response to GBV.
On the 25th of October 2012, HBF in partnership with Free Gender hosted a town-hall meeting on GBV in Khayelitsha. The event was attended by 61 community members, civil society organizations and a representative from the Khayelitsha police department. Although all 9 members of Subcouncil 24 were expected, only two councilors were present at the event.
Khayelitsha is one of the largest townships in Cape Town and while it has experienced significant growth over the last few years, the quality of life remains hampered by significant under-development and by the high levels of crime in the area. The latest SAPS crime statistics (2011/2012) reveal that Khayelitsha is one of the highest contributing areas to violence against women in Cape Town. Despite a minor decrease of 1.2 % of reported cases of sexual crimes, other types of crimes, such as those that domestic violence may be classified under, have increased exponentially: attempted murder by 43.9 %; common assault by 32.2 %; murder by 28.8 % and assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm by 2.6 %.
In her presentation, Major General Ndlovu listed the number of offences perpetrated against women and children in Khayelitsha over the last year. These included: 1960 cases of domestic violence and 937 cases of all assaults (i.e. grievous bodily harm, common or indecent assault). From these 2897 cases only 18 % (546) made it through the legal system. A total of 1635 interim protection orders and 516 final protection orders were received by these police stations during this time period. With regards to crimes of a sexual nature, 397 cases of rape, attempted rape, sexual assault and other types of sexual offences were reported to the police (25 % of these crimes were perpetrated against minors). The average conviction rate of perpetrators was 60 %.
Major General Ndlovu encouraged community members to report crime and to do so timeously as delays hindered investigations. While she maintained that addressing violence against women and children was a priority for SAPS and government, community members disagreed as they often felt that their concerns were ignored by police officers.
Participants were also dubious as to how seriously government took addressing women’s rights. They were amazed by Ward Councillor Khatshwa’s statement that his ward was free of violence against women. A young girl residing in his ward had recently been sexually assaulted with a bottle before being killed. The victim’s father had not received any support when he approached the councillors office for assistance.
Participants shared their perception that most councillors do not care about these issues. Very few councillors participate in GBV advocacy campaigns when invited and the low turn-out rate of councilors to the town-hall meeting seemed further proof that these issues were not a priority for local government. Councilors only seemed willing to engage with community members during elections.
PR Councillor Makhana responded that most councillors are not comfortable in addressing this topic as they are not aware of these issues. She too was disappointed by the absence of many of her colleagues and advised the hosting organizations to write a letter of complaint to the City Manager to question their absence.
Participants concluded that relationships between civil society organizations, community members and councillors needed to be strengthened. There was a need for continued awareness-raising on this topic and for the development of an integrated multi-sector action plan to address the high rates of violence against women and children, including hate crimes perpetrated against lesbian women and gay men, in Khayelitsha. To better serve their constituents, it was crucial that Councillors be trained on domestic violence and sexual offences.
* Following the town-hall meeting, a letter of complaint on the absence of councillors was sent to the Chairperson of the Subcouncil. Having failed to respond, the letter was forwarded to the Office of the Speaker and resubmitted following a less-than-satisfactory response. We await further feedback.
This project is funded by the European Union.
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