DATE: 31 AUGUST 2022
President Cyril Ramaphosa
Private Office of the President
RE: NSMSA OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA
NATIONAL SHELTER MOVEMENT CALLS FOR REMOVAL OF POLICE MINISTER, AS GOVERNMENT FAILS TO STEM SPIRALLING GBV PANDEMIC
Dear Mr. President,
As an umbrella organisation representing approximately 95 GBV shelters around the country, the NSMSA has been actively supporting government’s fight against GBVF – for 14 years – by providing sheltering and GBV support services to victims of domestic and intimate partner gender-based violence. As part of our advocacy efforts, the NSMSA has been highlighting the value of GBV shelters as a GBV disruptor, while drawing attention to the unnecessary challenges created by the severe lack of funding set aside for these facilities.
The NSMSA was also part of the Interim Steering Committee that helped develop the NSP on GBV, and actively seeks to develop meaningful partnerships with government – this year’s Shelter Indaba will be in partnership with National DSD. Our organisation has also been involved (and spearheaded) numerous research projects, which repeatedly show the value of shelters in the fight against the GBVF pandemic, while exposing the shortfalls on government’s end. Following feedback from callers to our dedicated Shelter Helpline, where numerous women complained of the poor service delivery from SAPS, the NSMSA even reached out to the Minister of Police, for help on this issue but have been repeatedly ignored.
The NSMSA urges your government to make a stronger commitment to decisively dealing with the spiralling GBVF pandemic – which is ruining far more lives than Covid ever will.
As we come to the close of another regretful Women’s Month – a month turned from celebrating women who marched to the Union Buildings, in 1956, to oppose the oppressive laws of the time to, 66 years later, when women are more oppressed than ever in South Africa. We seem to have less freedom of movement because we live in fear that our bodies will become a crime scene. Mr. President, you and your government are responsible for protecting the women and children of this
country and it is under your watch that gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) have reached pandemic proportions.
Mr. President, it is under Minister Bheki Cele’s watch, as Minister of Police, that women and children seem to endure the most gruesome, unabated violence. He has absolutely failed in his role and must immediately be replaced with someone who is more compassionate and better equipped to deal with the country’s unique and specific policing issues. Minister Cele has been called out several times for making disturbing comments to the public, worst of which is that a woman should count herself “lucky” if she was raped by only one man rather than by many. How can such a person be responsible for providing the police services required in GBVF cases, with such a terrible attitude to crimes against women? Why would he care about GBVF if he does not understand the true impact these crimes have on women?
A petition, started by the NSMSA on Women’s Day, already has 43 000+ signatories that agree that Minister Cele has failed in his duty and needs to be replaced immediately. Also consider the DNA backlog, which stood at more than 300 000 unprocessed cases due to Bheki Cele’s mismanagement. This means that these perpetrators are free to continue to commit violent acts. 96 785 schedule 8 offenders (perpetrators of violent crime) have been released on parole since 2016 without submitting a DNA sample. This is unacceptable!!
In the Presidential Summit Declaration and the National Strategic Plan on GBVF, you and your government committed to “Accountability, Coordination and Leadership”, you claimed that neither gender-based violence nor femicide will be tolerated at any level of government and society. Mr. President, South Africans can never celebrate Women’s Month when daily, so many women and children are harmed and slaughtered. Every year, the month that is supposed to be dedicated to women is tainted by gruesome, unthinkable GBV acts and femicide. This year, it was the brutal incident in Krugersdorp, which left 8 young women forever changed. Who will help restore their human dignity that was so violently stripped from them? And as you know this is not an isolated incident. There are countless other nameless victims.
Critical to ending this scourge of GBVF is building a police service that understands and proactively works to serve the needs of their communities. Instead, we are stuck with the South African Police Services (SAPS), led by Minister Cele, which demonstrates over and over again that it is ill-equipped to protect our country’s women from GBVF. SAPS is also far too often guilty of inflicting secondary abuse on those who come to them for help. More abuse awaits them when navigating the legal system, which is often followed by the disappointment of not getting the justice they deserve.
What’s even more horrific, Mr. Presiden,t is that under Minister Cele, 10 085 police officers have been charged with murder, rape, and assault; and since 2016 only 50 of these police officers faced suspension.
The recent sample study by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), which exposed the capacity and other issues affecting SAPS’ ability to effectively deal with GBVF, points to a much larger problem.
Can we really pretend that South Africa only has thirty (30) GBVF hotspots, when in fact, the whole of the country is a danger-zone for women and children? Mr. President, the women and children of this country need you to act decisively and strategically to address this as a national crisis because nowhere is safe anymore. Your government, not just SAPS, must focus on every locality, if you are serious about ending GBVF. You must work with civil society and social justice organisations. We will only solve this problem if government commits to working with the people.
GBVF is a human rights violation at the most basic level, and action to end it must be led from the ground up. Your government must work with communities to ensure women are protected. Additionally, government departments must be held responsible each time they fail the women of South Africa. Each department should take ownership of their failings, especially SAPS. We need many more trained police officers, who are equipped to deal with GBVF. Police stations must be adequately resourced to address GBVF. Minister Cele has failed in all of this and more. He must be replaced, immediately.
It is unbelievably sad that sixty-six (66) years after South African women fought against the injustice of apartheid, women in this country now experience the most violent sexual crimes and gruesome murders. What makes this even sadder Mr. President, is the fact women do not have to suffer like this because South Africa has a National Strategic Plan for addressing GBV and Femicide. An important question you should be asking is, “What is holding your government back from putting this plan into action? How many more women must lose their dignity, and their lives?”
We believe that your government should reflect on how it has allowed the GBVF pandemic to escalate to such out-of-control proportions. There can be no mistaking that South Africa is in GBVF State of Emergency. We must act now! How can you be satisfied to leave behind such a legacy of violence? The intensified war on women and their bodies leaves us nothing to celebrate this Women’s Month. How many more Uyinenes, Karabos, Jesses, Tsegofatsos, Luyandas, Nompumelelos and so many others must there still be before you say, “Enough is enough!?”
We as the National Shelter Movement of South Africa, along with several other capable GBVF-focused organisations, are available to meet with you Mr. President. We must address the merits of our petition and we are ready to work with you and government to find the best ways forward in implementing the NSP and assisting in the fight against GBVF that is crippling our country.
Dr Zubeda Dangor
Head of Executive for the National Shelter Movement of SA