One criminal case number, one life.
Disturbingly South African women and youth are not merely confronted by the stone cold and harsh reality that is locked up in the probability of possibly being the next victims of cold-blooded crime, but being the odd one out if one’s case number hasn’t been called yet.
As case files indeed make headlines while many heinous crimes still go unreported, the vulnerable species cannot be blamed for running scared, living in fear of being raped, maimed, scarred or their lives taken on a whim.
The South African nation is perceived to find itself at a crossroads where violence against women and children are concerned. The country is seemingly heading for a disaster, one murder and one rape at a time.
The crime status quo currently witnessed in South Africa has evolved over years and built up towards an alarming situation as the curse named femicide that has befallen the women of South Africa and violence affecting children have long germinated in fertile soil. And Limpopo is no exception.
As the country concluded the annual campaign of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence yesterday (Tuesday), a bleak picture signalled the reality around the safety of women and children in the province, as this period was highlighted by some of the most brutal incidents reported on thus far. Amid the incidence thereof Police expressed concern about the mushrooming of related occurrences in most districts across Limpopo.
Furthermore a monthly average of 60 most critical cases involving children escalated to the Police’s Forensic Social Workers (FSW) indicates that women and children remain vulnerable and the common victims of perpetrators.
During the period characterising the annual awareness campaign in Limpopo one of the most shocking matters reported was that of a 35-year-old woman allegedly having been chopped to death by her 45-year-old husband in the Vuwani area on Saturday.
Provincial Police Communications Head Motlafela Mojapelo indicated that the scourge of femicide in the province was a worrying factor as such incidents appeared to be mushrooming. “The province has experienced several incidents of gender-based violence which were characterised by the killing of women by their alleged boyfriends or husbands. We cannot at this stage give the average statistics but there was an apparent upsurge of these kind of incidents recently,” he said.
Asked about the biggest contributing factors, Mojapelo indicated that alcohol, greed, domestic violence, relationships and pure criminality seemed to top the list. He further emphasised that gender-based cases seemed to be more prevalent during the Festive Season.
When asked about help for victims and whether enough was being done to create awareness on gender-based violence, he said: “Our stations are equipped with Victim Empowerment Centres that were specifically designed to enable our officers to deal with these victims in an conducive environment. We have regular campaigns around the province to highlight the scourge of gender-based violence and other crimes.” He simultaneously commended investigating officers who always strive to bring perpetrators to book without any delay.
During the release of the provincial crime statistics by Transport and Community Safety MEC Dickson Masemola and Provincial Police Commissioner Nneke Ledwaba in October it was revealed that 2 934 women and 357 men were raped in Limpopo during the past year. The Tzaneen Cluster showed the biggest increase in rape cases with 66 more cases reported compared to the previous year. The second highest increase occurred in Thohoyandou Cluster with 55 more cases. With regards to sexual offences Tzaneen and Thohoyandou as in the past once again showed the biggest increase.
At the time Masemola expressed concern about gender-based violence and took a resolution that things won’t be the same going forward. A total of 183 women were murdered while 2 229 sexual offences cases were reported during the same period. Cases of attempted murder against women stood at 148 while 3 437 of assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm against women were reported the past year.
Crime against children was just as worrying with 59 children having been murdered in Limpopo the past year under review. A total of
1 788 cases of sexual offences, which include rape, sexual assault, attempted rape and contact sexual offences against children, were reported.
The monthly average of 60 cases escalated to specialised Police unit FSW by the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) already serves as indicator of the magnitude of the problem in Limpopo. FSW Commander Carien Phillips explained that the unit handled the most critical cases involving children in instances where an investigating officer was not able to obtain a statement from the minor(s) involved or cases where the elements of the crime or the dynamics of sexual abuse needed to be explained.
Phillips expressed concern about the average of cases that remaining worrying. “If sexual abuse was an illness, it would have been an epidemic.”
Turning to the profile of offenders, she explained: “It can be anyone. What I can confirm is that 99% of offenders are known to the victims by means of family, friends, neighbours or someone the child previously had contact with. Boys as well as girls are victims, with girls being in the majority. We also had cases of women being the offenders for abusing their own children,” she said.
When it comes to contributing factors Phillips emphasised alcohol and drugs, unemployment and people who are emotionally unstable.
But it is not only offenders who instigate gender-based violence. “Some factors based on the victims also contribute to the vulnerability of children. Children are not taught boundaries at home and they are emotionally neglected due to the lack of communication between them and their parents. Passive children, introverts and disabled children are also some of the common victims,” Phillips said.
She further indicated that the Police are doing everything in their power to do proper investigations and that there are enough specialised officers who are more than capable of handling such cases. “Though I am of the opinion that sufficient support is given to victims, more can still be done to create awareness on the processes in order for victims to know where to get help the quickest.”
Local lawyer Solly Mmakola stressed that the manner in which the security cluster conducted investigations into cases of gender-based violence was somewhat not on par and reiterated that judges needed watertight evidence to sentence an alleged perpetrator. He further reckoned that often the Police conducted what he regarded rushed investigations and ended up arresting a wrong person. He concluded saying that gender-based violence was a societal issue that required the security cluster and society to join forces.
Approached on the issue, Democratic Alliance Provincial Leader Jacques Smalle said “I don’t think our judicial system is to blame because they deal with matters and evidence brought before the courts. Our society is the problem because we impose violence on one another rather than solving challenges in a civilised manner. Our Police should also increase visibility in communities to try and curb the scourge of violence against women and children.”
EFF Provincial Chairperson Jossey Buthane reckoned that unemployment and poverty were contributing factors to the high crime statistics, hence government should create jobs. “We need adequate resources and special training for Police officials to enhance their investigating skills for the courts to impose long jail terms on perpetrators. Attempts to obtain comment from other political parties by the time of going to press were in vain.
One criminal case number, one life.