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Sexual offences courts long overdue - Radebe

The concern is whether there is political will to ensure the entire roll out is sustained.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe speaks during a government media briefing on 14 September 2012. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - While the decision to re-introduce sexual violence courts has been welcomed, concern is whether the political will to ensure the entire roll out is sustained.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe announced in Pretoria this morning that these specialised courts will be phased back in across the country.

The minister expects at least 22 sexual offences courts to be established this year, and 57 within the next three years.

Jeff Radebe says that R20 million has been allocated for the project, however gender-based violence researcher Lisa Vetten questions whether it's enough.

She says this decision is long overdue, and is necessary to protect complainants.

The DA's Debbie Scheffer says the decision to re-instate the courts is commendable, the damage caused by phasing them out is immeasurable.

The courts were shut down between 2007 and 2008, due to a lack of satisfactory funding.

Last year, Radebe commissioned a task team to look into the feasibility of reintroducing these courts. A pilot project saw several such courts being set up again in some parts of the country.

The Justice Ministry has repeatedly called for these courts to be re-instituted to deal with South Africa's rape crisis.

Radebe said the task team found these previously specialised courts managed a successful prosecution rate of as much as 80 percent as well as a quicker case turnaround.

He said a major consideration in their development is the reduction of the secondary victimisation of complainants.

Each court will therefore feature a special room for victims to testify, a private waiting room for witnesses, victim support services and specialist presiding officers.

SCARY RAPE STATS

South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape cases in the world and according to statistics, a person is raped every four minutes in the country.

There has been a spate of attacks against children in the last few days. In the most recent, a four-month-old baby girl was raped on a farm in Ceres in the Western Cape at the weekend.

Western Cape Police Commissioner Arno Lamoer said he has been left sickened by the attack.

"There is a sick society out there; men who can't take responsibility. We need to ensure he is arrested."

Lamoer said the attacker took the baby out of her parents' bed.

A seven-year-old boy, who was also in the house at the time, was also sexually assaulted by the same perpetrator.

Lamoer said the infant remained in a stable condition at the Red Cross Children's Hospital where she has already undergone two operations.

SETTING AN EXAMPLE

Last week, a serial rapist was given five life sentences and 135 years for various crimes, ranging from rape to robbery.

Cyril Nhlanathi was convicted on a total of 31 charges and is believed to have attacked at least seven victims.

The police's Gerard Labuschagne, of the investigative psychology section, testified for the state, arguing Nhlanathi could never be rehabilitated and showed no remorse.

Nhlanathi attacked some of his victims while they were on their way to work.