BLA Western Cape held a high tea to discuss gender-based violence crimes

November 27th, 2019

The Executive Committee of the Black Lawyers Association Western Cape branch at the high tea themed ‘I am Not Next’, which was held on 26 October in Cape Town. Back row, from left: Deputy Secretary, Clive Hendricks; and Legal Education, Daniel Zantsi. Front row, from left: Secretary, Nonoza Potelwa; Deputy Chairperson, Diana Mabasa; Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery; Western Cape High Court Judge, Babalwa Mantame; Treasurer, Nqaba Masizana; Chairperson, Nolundi Nyati; and Projects and Events, Ayanda Mdanjelwa.

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

The Black Lawyers Association (BLA) Western Cape branch held a high tea themed ‘I am not next’ on 26 October in Cape Town. The event was sparked by recent violence in the news across South Africa (SA). Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery spoke at the high tea. He started his speech by speaking about a woman who survived abuse, Josina Machel, the daughter of the late Samora Machel and former first lady Graça Machel, who suffered abuse at the hands of her husband. He said Machel was attacked by her then partner while she was in her car, she managed to escape and started screaming for help in the street, but no one came out to assist her and the only response she received was that of barking dogs. He added that it was her attacker who realised that she needed to be taken to hospital and told authorities at the scene that she had fallen. He pointed out that Machel survived her abuse, however, there are countless women who may not have survived.

Mr Jeffery said that the level of sexual violence and gender-based violence has reached a point of crisis in SA. He added that the statistics of gender-based violence from the recently released crime statistics show that the number of women killed is down 2,9% from the previous year. He said it meant that seven women are murdered every day. Furthermore, 1 014 children were murdered in 2018/19. He noted that the level of sexual offences had increased by 4,6 %.

Mr Jeffery added that the Crime against Women in South Africa report that was released by Statistics South Africa last year said that attitude and perception plays an important role in shaping human behaviour including criminal activity and vulnerability to crime. Attitudes towards women are driven mostly by culture and religious beliefs and often determine how women are treated in society. Mr Jeffery said the issue with gender-based violence is that women are not being beaten up, killed or raped by aliens, they are being killed by men and generally by men known to them.

Mr Jeffery noted that it is a societal problem. He said patriarchal practices and attitudes that continue to persist in all spheres of society impact on women and female children in a negative way. He added that it is the attitude of men that needs to be changed. He pointed out that President Cyril Ramaphosa recently said that: ‘Violence against women is not …  women’s problem. It is not a problem of what a woman said or did, what a woman was wearing, or where she was walking. Violence against women is … men’s problem. It is men who rape and kill women. There is, therefore, an obligation on the men of this country to act to end such behaviour and such crimes’.

Mr Jeffery said that the ‘Not in My Name’ movement was started by a group of concerned citizens to reach out to men, to come forward and to be the voice of change. He added that the ‘Not in My Name’ initiative is an acknowledgement of the importance of men standing up and speaking about gender-based violence because men are the main perpetrators. He pointed out that patriarchy, male power and entitlement and socio-economic hardship, socialisation of boy and girls, absenteeism of fathers and solo parenting, substance abuse, unemployment and broken families are known key contributors to violence against women and children.

Mr Jeffery said the way male children are raised should be equally important for society. He pointed out that the Department of Justice has partnered with the ‘Not in My Name’ movement and are thus actively involved in programmes that will empower the youth with knowledge and support to prevent –

  • the effects of domestic violence;
  • collaborate with men’s organisations to prevent violence;
  • strengthen initiatives against violence;
  • promote gender-equality through education; and
  • create homes that are free from violence and stereotypes.

The Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery and Western Cape High Court Judge, Babalwa Mantame, were guest speakers at the Black Lawyers Association Western Cape branch’s high tea themed ‘I am Not Next’ that was held on 26 October in Cape Town.

Mr Jeffery noted that the government is revising the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 to see where it can be tightened. He added that there are also Sexual Offences Courts and Thuthuzela care centres, which are continually being established and government wants to have extra facilities at those courts to make it easier for abuse survivors to testify without being victimised. He said that another measure they are looking at is easy access to a portal on a website with information regarding protection orders, which will enable victims to apply for protection orders online and receive them electronically. He added that there will be better links between the courts and the police in respect to protection orders and warrants of arrest. He also said an E-justice system could be developed for survivors to serve protection orders, as well as the creation of proper records systems to be used by police and prosecutors to check whether there are previous protection orders against the accused.

Western Cape High Court Judge, Babalwa Mantame said the discussions at the ‘I am Not Next’ high tea reminded her of the painful case of Courtney Pieters, who was raped and murdered by a person who was sharing a home with the Pieter’s family. She said that after the accused was arrested, the state was not sure whether to include rape charges, as her body was so decomposed after the nine days she was missing. She pointed out that it was through the intervention of Professor Johan Dempers from Stellenbosch University, that an investigation into whether rape took place was done.

Judge Mantame pointed out that after many tests Prof Dempers found that the child was raped. She said the perpetrator was sentenced to two life sentences. She added that what was sad was that the perpetrator was someone known to the family of the victim, someone who they trusted and when she disappeared, he played along and helped the family look for her. Judge Mantame pointed out that the case traumatised her a lot. She said that she was glad that the Office of the Chief Justice has realised that such cases can traumatise judges. She noted that the Office of the Chief Justice has established a wellness programme that judges can attend when dealing with such cases.

Judge Mantame said that the courts are the last line of defence used when it comes to crimes relating to gender-based violence. She added that the courts are aware of what is happening within communities and they are taking serious action against those that come before it. ‘We are very pro-active when it comes to convicting and sentencing. We do not leave any stone unturned. If it means tests should be done, we will postpone the case for those results,’ Judge Mantame added.

Judge Mantame said that gender-based violence targets are women, children and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) community. She added that the LGBTQI community experience gender-based violence on the basis that they are non-conforming, or they need to be taught a lesson since they do not practise heterosexuality. She noted that she is in no way saying that men and male children are not the victims of abuse, but at times the gender-based violence is used to feminise men, to undermine their masculinity. She added that in the eyes of men, women are seen as inferior.

Judge Mantame pointed out that statistics showed that the most vulnerable group, which are most affected by gender-based violence, are women and female children. She said perpetrators target the weak and most vulnerable victims who are unable to fend for themselves. She said gender-based violence includes –

  • femicide;
  • infliction of physical, mental or sexual harm which is assault;
  • emotional abuse;
  • controlling and domineering behaviour;
  • verbal threats;
  • intimidation;
  • stalking; and
  • others.

She added that some perpetrators manipulate and make their victims believe that their abusive actions are correct.

Judge Mantame said that this normally happens in an intimate setting, such as, during marriage or while dating and sometimes even in the family environment. She pointed out that violence in those types of settings contribute to the death statistic, as victims are hesitant to report the abuse because of the stigma attached to it. She noted that for society to understand what gender-based violence is, they need to understand what causes gender-based violence. Judge Mantame said the 2019 statistics show that while crime rises, fear in communities also rises, while the trust in the justice system drops, which includes trust in the police, prosecutors and the courts.

Judge Mantame pointed out that statistics that were released only relate to crimes that were reported, she said one should ask about other cases that have not been reported. She added that it has been said that only one in nine cases in SA, which relates to gender-based violence is reported. She said the question that should be asked is what happened to the eight cases that were not reported and the victims that are left to live in those situations until they die.

Judge Mantame said there should be ways of preventing gender-based violence. She acknowledged the BLA’s ‘I am Not Next’ high tea as one of the measures of preventing gender-based violence, by having a dialogue, which includes men, to try and find long term solutions to deal with matters of gender-based violence. She added that community dialogues should be held continuously to address the link between gender-based violence and cultural and religious practices. She pointed out that organisations working on primarily preventing gender-based violence should be identified and important prevention initiatives in targeted communities should be implemented.

Judge Mantame said that there should be visible campaigns and awareness on gender-based violence. She added that men and male children should be engaged with in order to understand where they are coming from in respect of their superiority. She added that women and children should be empowered in communities, especially the most disadvantaged communities on how to tackle gender-based violence.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.