GBV: Public Protector Reveals Shocking State of SA Criminal Justice System


The Office of the Public Protector has found that the criminal justice system in South Africa fails to provide adequate measures to effectively protect victims of gender-based violence (GBV), including those affected by anti-LGBTQIA+ violence.

The disturbing findings were presented in a damning report released on Tuesday, as a result of an investigation requested by the Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, in 2020.

His request was sparked by media reports at the time that Altecia Kortje and her 7-year-old daughter, Raynecia, were allegedly murdered by her former partner after being turned away by Bellville Magistrates Court officials when she tried to apply for a domestic violence protection order.

The Public Protector includes anti-LGBTQIA+ violence within the category of GBV, noting that evidence revealed “the most vulnerable groups in society, who are predisposed to incidents of domestic violence and gender-based violence, are women, children, the elderly, and persons from the LGBTQIA+ communities.”

A Crumbling and Inefficient Court System

In the investigation, the Public Protector’s Office inspected 38 courts across the country and found that, barring one, they were not maintained in a manner that supports efficient service delivery. The courts are overseen by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD).

The report outlines poor maintenance of infrastructure, inadequate office equipment, malfunctioning telephone lines, switchboards and air conditioners, persistent network problems, broken photocopiers, and shared computers. Some courts even faced water and electricity shortages.

Case management systems are inadequate and inaccessible, often requiring manual capturing. Facilities often lack private consulting rooms, which are essential for confidentiality and privacy. Long waiting times, staff shortages, and improper filing systems further impede efficiency.

The Public Protector concluded that “the conduct of the DOJ&CD constitutes maladministration” under the Public Protector Act “and improper conduct” as envisaged in the Constitution.

Police Hampered by Lack of Training and Resources

The investigation also found that the South African Police Service (SAPS) did not put adequate measures in place to respond effectively to incidents of GBV. This failure amounts to maladministration under the Public Protector Act and improper conduct under the Constitution.

The report highlighted deficiencies in training for dealing with GBV cases, a lack of Victim-Friendly Rooms (VFRs) in police stations, and inadequate support for victims, including medical assistance.

It found a reluctance by SAPS officials to register cases and arrest perpetrators without a warrant, even when violence is evident, leaving victims exposed to further harm.

Significant delays in SAPS responses to domestic violence incidents due to insufficient vehicles and other resources were also noted.

Additionally, there is inadequate collaboration between the SAPS and the Department of Social Development (DSD), which also lacks sufficient shelters and resources to provide support services like trauma counselling.

Remedial Action Ordered

In series of far-reaching binding recommendations, the Public Protector ordered the DOJ&CD, the SAPS and the DSD to take remedial action within 180 to 210 days. 

The actions include improving the state of the courts and ensuring they have sufficient capacity, staff, and resources to ensure optimal service delivery.

The SAPS must also provide regular and comprehensive training for staff, ensure all police stations have VFRs or suitable private spaces for GBV victims, and enhance its capacity to provide medical and psychological support to GBV victims.

Furthermore, the SAPS was instructed to foster stronger partnerships and better coordination with the DSD to provide holistic support to GBV victims. The DSD, in turn, has to take action to provide more shelters and adequate support services to victims.

Additionally, the SAPS must address resource shortages, such as the lack of vehicles, to improve its response times to GBV incidents. 

In a statement, the DOJ&CD said it “welcomes the report and the accompanying remedial action issued by the Public Protector.”

Outgoing Deputy Minister John Jeffery emphasised: “The implementation of the proposed remedial action is vital. The justice system has to be responsive to the needs of those seeking assistance. These are matters which affect the daily lives of women in a very real way; therefore, we must ensure that the system is made less cumbersome and more user-friendly.”

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend