Address by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Cde Ronald Lamola, on the Joint Sitting Debate on Gender Based Violence

18September 2019

His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa;
Leader of government business Honourable Deputy President David Mabuza;
Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly;
Honourable Chairperson of the National Council Provinces;
Honourable Members;
Ladies and Gentlemen; and
Distinguished Guests

When declaring that 1984 will be observed as the year of women by the broad democratic movement and the people of South Africa as a whole, the president of the ANC, Cde Oliver Tambo said: One of the fundamental tasks the process of national liberation confronts is the liberation of women of our country from their triple oppression on the grounds of sex, class and colour. Tambo called on the international democratic women’s movement and the freedom loving people of the world to join us in the pursuit of common goals that we all espouse.

25 Years into democracy, we are making a noble call to all the people in  South Africa to work together to eliminate all forms of oppression that women are subjected to through gender based violence which is deeply rooted in gendered acts that lead to the oppression of women. We need to reflect why women are subjected to arbitrary deprivation of rights espoused in the constitution including freedom of movement as they can be pounced on and be maimed even in areas that ordinarily can be deemed safe.

Honourable Members, this past Friday I had the privilege to open the Sibasa Sexual offenses Court, which is the 94th sexual offenses court  the since the Department started reopening the sexual offenses courts in 2013. We will add 10 more sexual offenses courts by the end of this financial year  bring the total to 104. These courts are victim friendly and have improved the conviction rates in our courts. In the year 2000  we had a conviction rate of 48 percent  and today the NPA has a conviction rate of 74 percent. Victims are at the centre of our these courts. The notion of testifying in front of the offender can be mitigated through closed circuit television testimony. Furthermore what has become even more clearer to us that there is correlation in the establishment of courts and increase in conviction rates.

In the last two weeks, the sexual offenses courts have meted out heavy sentences, an offender was sentenced to four life sentences for four counts of rape, another one life sentence and 50 years both in Moretele Magistrate Court, Hamanskraal; another one in KwaZulu-Natal was sentenced to 7 life sentences plus 76 years as an example.

In evaluating the prosecution of sexual offences, it is to be noted, that for the fourth consecutive year a national conviction rate of above 70% was achieved (both in relation to all sexual offence prosecutions and in relation to the Thuthuzela Care Center-reported cases).  This conviction rate of above 70% is a substantial improvement since the year 2000 where we stood at a 48% conviction rate for sexual offences this is been authenticated by The Monitor Research Group).   

  • In perspective, the quantity of sexual offences cases finalized with a verdict equals 6353 with 4724 convictions, hence a conviction rate of 74.4%.
  • Regarding the TCC cases, we achieved a conviction rate of 73.5%, 1636 convictions from 2225 verdict cases.
  • From the Thuthuzela Care Center cases, over the past two financial years: 612 life imprisonment sentences, 368 sentences for 20-25 years imprisonment and 1463 sentences of 10-19 years imprisonment were handed down. These sentences are exclusively on rape offences (schedule 1 of the CPA) and in line with the minimum sentences legislation.

In Quarter 1 of the current 2019/20 Financial Year, the national figure for the offences of rape (section 3 of Act 32/2007) on our court rolls sits at 2479. The national conviction rate for all sexual offences in this quarter was 74.5% which amounts to 1064 convictions.  

Honourable Members, I believe the statistics I have quoted here reveal that the collaborations we have with Civil society organisations, Department of Social Development, South African Police Services and other stakeholders through the Thuthuzela care centres, is essential. This has shown us that nothing can beat a nation working together. This is what will deter people from committing crimes. A nation that collectively deals with criminality not a death penalty or castration but action from law enforcement agencies.

The Thuthuzela care centres ensure that the matters which are reported to them are prosecutorial driven investigations with in house social workers and various victim support mechanisms including Court preparations and support to make the victims familiar with and comfortable with the court process.

 It has become evident that we have to work towards decreasing the withdrawals of matters which are reported. As it stands currently 37 percent of the victims who comes to the Thuthuzela care centres do not want to open dockets.

In that same vein government has invested a great deal of resources to understand what stops victims from reporting such crimes. The evidence gathered over a period of 5 years thus far illustrates that having faith and understanding the justice system is immensely important. Our victim centred approach is yielding results. For instance, in the last two financial year the NPA has been able to garner a prosecution rate of 74 %, this could improve if we had less withdrawals in the system.

Another area which requires a great deal of improvement is the finalisation rate of sexual offence matters. There is certainly room for ample improvement here across the entire justice system from investigations to prosecutions, social workers, judicial officers, and medical and legal practitioners.

To this end we will be looking into clearing the backlog of cases in our courts on GBV.

We will put in procedures and measures to review and on complaints against police and prosecutors who fail our people in GBV matters.

We will ensure that review laws that address the economic plight of women this is our priority in this administration. We will be reviewing legislation such as the:

Traditional Courts Bill

Recognition of Customary Amendment Bill

We will introduce a Gender Based Violence and Femicide Bill, review the Sexual Offences Amendment Act Bill to ensure that National Register for Sexual Offences expands its scope and address the question of making it public.

Honourable Speaker, as speak we are sitting with twenty thousand three hundred and 33 inmates who have been convicted for sexual offences. 4500 of these offenders have been convicted for rape.

In partnership with the University of Limpopo we have developed rehabilitation programs for  the offenders of sexual offenses which include training programs on dating as well as  psychological assessments of these offenders in partnership with the Department of Social Development. I have called on the department to conduct an evaluation report to help us assess how effective these programs are and can be done enhance.

One of the things we may need to examine very closely is the impact of sexual enhancement substances which can be loosely obtained such as Mpesu; Maringa, and Ibiza. This comes after a conversation I had with the Vice Chancellor of the University of Venda to conduct a scientific study on the effects of Mphesu in the area.  This is after we received anecdotal complaints that this traditional medicine was significantly contributing to sexual offences in the area. Given the fact that Venda is densely populated, I was surprised to learn that in this financial year alone, 821 sexual offices have been reported from January to August 2019. Whilst opening sexual offences court in the area is a monumental step to address the matter, we need to understand what informs the heinous act in the first place.

Honourable members, gender based violence, is a product of many facets of our society. The criminal justice system is just one part of the puzzle which can only manifest itself once an incident has occurred. Whilst we would want survivors to have more faith in the justice system, we need to have faith in our social structures first. If we are to really embody Thomas Sankara’s assertion that  there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women,  then we must regard the scourge of gender based violence as a struggle to complete our social revolution. Women in this country are liberated if they cannot feel safe in a church, a Post office, or any space they frequent.

The change starts with us men.

I thank you.