Urgent steps to bring about improved levels of policing must be announced by President Jacobs Zuma in his State of the Nation Address tomorrow as the first steps in bringing an end to the vicious rape and murder of women and children in our society. We have become a country without a soul in allowing such violence to continue.
We lack visible policing and training of police detectives. Furthermore, we lack proper statistical data and research that reflect the actual number of incidents of rape.
According to the 2012 Victims of crime survey released by Statistics South Africa, 11,3% of households in the Eastern Cape were most likely to see police officers less often than once a month while provinces having the highest percentage of households who never saw police on duty in their areas of residence were Eastern Cape (40,6%), Mpumalanga (22,2%) and KwaZulu-Natal (13,8%).
In the same survey reasons why victims didn’t report crime to the police included the belief that the police would fail to solve the crime, that some police were corrupt or inaccessible, or that sometimes the police behaviour was inappropriate. Victims also feared being blamed, believed that it was partly their own fault and feared being exposed or embarrassed.
Research has shown that a major cause of rape is a lack of legal deterrents. According to the Medical Research Council just 6% of reported cases in Gauteng are successfully prosecuted. Such information is not readily available for the Eastern Cape, due to a lack of research.
As a society and as a province we must start taking responsibility for this issue. Some steps that will make an impact are:
- The annual statistics released by the South African Police Service must make provision to specify rape;
- Improved police visibility and improved detective work;
- Police officers must receive training annually on the Sexual Offences Act;
- Research and legislative requirements must be put in place to so that annual reports reflect how many rape cases are reported to the SAPS, how many cases go to court and how many lead to conviction;
- Communities need to recognise that they also have responsibilities and must be encouraged to become involved in Community Policing Forums;
- Provincial support for programmes such as the Gender Action Project and the Rhodes University- based Silent Protest;
- Sustained funding for NPO’s such as Living Water in East London, whose budget was slashed by half by the Department of Social Development without reason;
- Policies must be put in place within departments, starting with education, to deal with sexual violence and abuse; and
- Reinstatement of specialised sexual offences courts.
Every day in the last week the major daily provincial newspapers in the Eastern Cape (Daily Dispatch, The Herald and Die Burger) had front page stories about rape and sexual abuse and carried more lead stories inside. This issue is not just about the victim. We must demand a holistic approach which involves the government and the community as a whole.