Government is currently working on a number of initiatives to fight the country’s high crime rate – including new laws and more police officers.
Writing in his weekly open letter to the public, president Cyril Ramaphosa said that his government remains firm in its resolve that ‘a life sentence must mean life’.
“Those who commit crimes against women and children must know that they will be caught and tried, and that our courts will act firmly against those found guilty,” he said.
“The violence perpetrated by men against women remains a scourge and national crisis that we must act urgently to end.”
Below he outlined some of the initiatives his government is working on to fight crime in the country.
Emergency Action Plan
Ramaphosa said that the Emergency Action Plan aims to deal with the scourge of gender-based violence.
“The women of our country demanded that financial and other resources should be made available to address this national crisis.
“I directed that government should respond the call that had been made by the women of our country.
“The government has responded. The responsible government departments have together reprioritised R1.6 billion for the plan to be resourced and implemented.”
He said that the plan focuses on improving access to justice for survivors of violence and prevention campaigns to change attitudes and behaviour.
“It involves measures to strengthen the criminal justice process and to prioritise the creation of economic opportunities for women who are vulnerable to abuse.
“I have directed that I be given weekly reports on the implementation of the plan. There has been notable progress on a number of aspects of the plan.”
Case backlogs and call centres
Ramaphosa said that clearing case backlogs is a key priority, with government implementing special plans to address delays.
“The National Prosecuting Authority is implementing a 100 day rapid results approach to speed up case turnaround times.
“Courts with significant backlogs in the North West, Eastern Cape and Limpopo have been identified for roll-out,” he said.
“National and provincial 24-hour call centres to deal with complaints against police officials, prosecutors and magistrates on gender-based violence and femicide cases are now up and functioning.
“We are working to reduce the GBV case backlogs at forensic laboratories and are developing a tracking mechanism that will be rolled out in January 2020.”
More police recruits
Ramaphosa said that the SAPS has allocated 312 new recruits currently undergoing basic training to the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units.
“To date, 7,000 rape evidence collection kits have been distributed to police stations across the country. A project to reopen unresolved murder and sexual offences cases (so-called cold cases) will soon be operational. It has already begun in the Eastern Cape.
“Government employees who work with children and mentally disabled persons are being vetted against the National Register of Sex Offenders. To date, 1,222 officials have been vetted, including prosecutors and members of the SAPS.”
New laws and courts
Ramaphosa said that legislative reform is underway to tighten conditions around bail and sentencing for perpetrators of gender-based violence, as well as provisions that extend the protection afforded to women and children.
“We are on track to achieve our target of establishing 11 more sexual offences courts by the end of the current financial year,” he said.
“A new sexual offences court has been opened in Sibasa in Limpopo and eleven regional courts across all provinces have been identified for (an) upgrade.”