Untrained police & more: The biggest challenges in the fight against GBV in WC

Of the total 34,209 incidents reported, Mitchells Plain and Delft recorded the highest number of domestic violence/gender-based violence cases in the province.

FILE: Protesters gathered outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre during a gender-based violence protest on 4 September 2019. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Untrained police, poor record-keeping, lack of support, protection orders that are served late - these are just some of the challenges stifling the fight against domestic violence in the Western Cape.

This is according to the Census Project conducted over six months between 2018 and 2019, which monitored the level of compliance of 150 police stations in the province with the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) 116 of 1998 and the SAPS National Instruction 7/1999.

The census found that of the total 34,209 incidents reported, Mitchells Plain and Delft recorded the highest number of domestic violence or gender-based violence cases in the province at 3,155 and 2,071 cases, respectively.

Physical abuse (46%) and emotional, verbal and psychological abuse (29%) accounted for the most reported forms of domestic violence.

The numbers look even direr when it came to fighting domestic violence.

According to the census, 74% of detectives at the top 20 stations that recorded a high number of cases have not undergone the five-day DVA training course which was included in the basic police training curriculum in July 2004.

There was also not enough trained volunteers at a number of police stations: "Khayelitsha and Atlantis police stations only have one trained volunteer, despite having had 1,105 and 1,272 incidents respectively reported in 2018/19. Delft and Lingelethu West stations only have four trained volunteers, despite these stations having the second and third highest number of incidents. Beaufort West station has no volunteers," said Western Cape MEC of Community Safety Albert Fritz.

Proper record-keeping and late serving of protection orders within the stipulated 48 hours meant a greater chance of perpetrators being in contact with victims or not being apprehended.

When it came to cases that were successfully reported, the court process was another hurdle to overcome: "Of the total 159 GBV-related cases monitored by the court watching brief unit between April 2018 and September 2019: investigations were incomplete (86), dockets did not arrive at court (54), forensic reports were outstanding (15), the accused was not brought to court within 48 hours of arrest (2) and the witness was not at court (2). These factors contribute to cases being struck off the roll and are a complete miscarriage of justice, infringing on the constitutional rights of the victim," Fritz said.

Fritz has committed to working closely with the newly appointed provincial police commissioner, Yolisa Matakata, to address the findings of the Census Project.