Speech by Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, MP, (Adv) on the occasion of the launch of Sexual Offences Court in Morobeng Magistrates Court (formerly known as Sekgosese) Court, 25 November 2016
Honourable Premier Mr Stanley Mathabathe
Judge President Justice Ephraim Makgoba
Executive Mayor of Capricorn District Municipality Cllr J Mpe
Executive Mayor of Polokwane Local Municipality Cllr T Nkadimeng
Representantive from Help Age International Mr N Chipfupa
Regional Court President Ms. J Wessels
Chief Magistrate Ms D Ringane
Members of legal profession
Representatives from other government departments
Ladies and Gentlemen
In our history of liberation, South Africa is at a juncture where it is highly critical to reflect on whether the fundamental freedoms we fought for are truly enjoyed by all who find themselves within its borders. This enquiry must define our very existence as a country which fought long and hard for liberation, as enshrined in our internationally acclaimed Constitution. We must be able to measure where we are in terms of making real these fundamental freedoms and rights It is therefore, befitting during this campaign of 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children for government to reflect on the words of our freedom icon, the late former President Nelson Mandela, when he said:
“For every woman and girl violently attacked, we reduce our humanity. For every woman forced into unprotected sex because men demand this, we destroy dignity and pride. Every woman who has to sell her life for sex, we condemn to a lifetime in prison. For every moment we remain silent, we conspire against our women. For every woman infected by HIV, we destroy a generation.’’
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Department of Correctional Services, are in a unique position to address the scourge of sexual violence for both victims and their families, and also to ensure that there is appropriate correction of those convicted of rape and other sexual offences perpetrated against women, children, older persons, persons with disabilities, and the Lesbian; Gay; Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex persons.
As a country, which fought hard and long against all forms of discrimination, it is important for government to interrogate how its counter- sexual violence programmes enhance reporting and encourage victims to go through the entire criminal justice system so as to ensure that guilty perpetrators experience the hard hand of law. We are encouraged by the current conviction rate of sexual offences that stands at 73%.
In improving oversight in the implementation of our laws and policies against power-based crimes, our National Development Plan commits that by 2030 all people living in South Africa feel safe and have no fear of crime. It is therefore our determined goal to establish a court system that is victim-centric, more accessible, quick, responsive and effective. We need a criminal justice system that is free from secondary victimization and service-standard based. The truth is, we cannot beat crime without the willing participation of victims and witnesses. We therefore need to strengthen our efforts to achieve a criminal justice system that places the needs of the diversified victims at the centre.
It is in this light that my Department is committed to implement the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 (Act No 32 of 2007) and its National Policy Framework, which call for specialised services for victims of sexual offences. Our new Sexual Offences Courts Model still takes leadership in the globe in terms of the catalogue of support services it provides. As required by the Services Charter for Victims of Crime, the Sexual Offences Courts afford victims, among others, with information services, court preparation services, pre and post-trial emotional containment services, private consultation service, intermediary service, private testifying service, private waiting room service, restitution and victim impact statement services, witness fee service and referral services, where necessary. These services mostly talk to the heart of the victim to ensure that justice is not only seen, but also felt.
The Morobeng Sexual Offences Courts is the 50th courtroom established since August 2013. Our goal is to reach the target of 57 courtrooms by the end of this financial year, as required by the Report of the Ministerial Task on the Adjudication of Sexual Offences Matters (MATTSO).
The Sexual Offences Courts Model is the home-grown intervention that continues to gain more international adoption. It is the pride of South Africa, which my Department now uses as the base to guide the achievement of our goal of a complete victim-centric justice system.
The Department has established a National Task Team to introduce a catalogue of integrated support services for victims of violent crimes, for a start, with the aim of assisting them to navigate the justice system in a caring, empowering and responsive environment. The implementation of this project will commence in the next financial year, and it will not stop until all courts of South Africa are victim-centric. I have also instructed the Department to review the related laws, particularly the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977, to ensure they bring the victim to the centre of the criminal justice system; reduce and ultimately eliminate secondary victimisation often caused by systemic and infrastructural conditions, improve the turn-around time in the finalisation of cases, and Improve the conviction rate and sentencing in in all crimes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The breakdown of traditional family support structures has made older women and men more vulnerable to ageist attitudes resulting in abuse and crime. In terms of the UN Principles- adopted by the UN General Assembly (Resolution 46/91) on 16 December 1991, DoJ&CD has the responsibility to ensure that older persons have access to legal services, and that they have full enjoyment of their ‘human rights and fundamental freedoms when residing in any shelter, care or treatment facility, including full respect for their dignity, beliefs, needs and privacy and for the right to make decisions about their care and the quality of their lives’.
Our Constitution equally condemns all forms of discrimination against the older persons and affords them the right to be treated equally and to have the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms.
However, it is an undeniable truth that crime has eroded the constitutional values of our democracy. The family fibre is gradually losing its fundamental strength to lay a foundation for a peaceful and united society that values our older people and humanity, in general. This is mainly evident by the frequent media reports of gruesome crimes against the older persons. It is a shame to hear of cases of rape, robbery, theft, and even murder committed against the vulnerable older persons. In rural communities, brutal killings of older women because of being suspected of practising witchcraft have been reported. Recently, the Limpopo province has been recording increasing figures of sexual violence and violent crimes against older women. The establishment of the Morobeng Sexual Offences Courts is therefore the Department’s response to give dedicated and specialized services to older victims of sexual offences.
In bringing the scourge of violence against older persons, in 2015 the Department signed a Memorandum of Understanding with HelpAge International to implement a Justice for Older Persons Project which seeks to, inter alia, develop a custom-made court-based support service model for older victims of crime. This work is in progress and its implementation will feed into the work of the National Task Team.
The Sexual Offences Court Model requires the cooperation between the various role-players within the Criminal Justice System. It therefore, does not only require inputs from my Department only but requires role-players from reporting to sentencing to work in a coordinated manner.
I thank you