Public Protector releases damning report on the handling of gender-based violence complaints

Report says the departments of Justice, Police and Social Development are falling short

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On Tuesday, Public Protector Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka (right) handed over her report to the Deputy Minister of Justice, John Jefferey (left), on the difficulties gender-based violence victims experience when reporting cases at magistrates’ courts and police stations across the country. Photo: Marecia Damons

  • The departments of Justice and Social Development, and the police are not providing enough support to victims of gender-based violence, says the Public Protector in a report.
  • The investigation was sparked by allegations that Altecia Kortje, a victim of gender-based violence, was turned away at the Bellville Magistrate’s Court in June 2020 when she tried to apply for a protection order.
  • The Public Protector has told each department to make changes and report back to her.

The Office of the Public Protector has released a damning report on the support given to victims of gender-based violence (GBV) by the Departments of Justice and Constitutional Development and Social Development, and by SAPS.

The Public Protector investigated 38 magistrates’ courts across the country.

The investigation was sparked by allegations that Altecia Kortje was turned away at the Bellville Magistrate’s Court in June 2020 when she tried to apply for a protection order. She and her daughter were later found murdered.

On 18 June 2020 Deputy Minister of Justice John Jefferey asked the Public Protector, Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka to investigate the administrative challenges faced by GBV victims in the criminal justice system.

On Tuesday Gcaleka presented her findings at the Bellville Magistrates’ Court.

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

The investigation found that the Department of Justice had not put adequate measures in place to protect GBV victims.

Some of the 38 court buildings were old and dilapidated. At others, there was inadequate office equipment, malfunctioning telephone lines, switchboards and air conditioners, and persistent network problems.

The courts did not have a functional Integrated Case Management System (ICMS). “The ICMS is mostly inaccessible or very slow due to network challenges, for example at Magistrates Courts in Umlazi, Umbumbulu, Mamelodi, Mzumbe and Ndwendwe,” the report read.

There were no private or sufficient consultation rooms for victims.

Most courts did not have proper filing systems and spaces. “This was evidenced by files scattered on the floor at Mamelodi, Pretoria, Palm Ridge, Vereeniging, Johannesburg, Bellville and files kept in police cells at Ga-Rankuwa,” Gcaleka said.

Gcaleka said the Department of Justice must, within seven months, provide her with a detailed project plan for the renovation of the courts, with turnaround times, targets and deliverables indicating how buildings and ICT will be upgraded.


Gcaleka said SAPS did not have adequate measures in place to respond to incidents of GBV.

Some police stations, especially in rural areas, did not have victim-friendly rooms and GBV victims were subjected to crowded SAPS stations. According to SAPS, 1,019 police stations have victim-friendly rooms and 141 police stations do not.

The investigation found that some SAPS officials were reluctant to register cases.

They failed to inform the victims of their right to institute criminal action.

“The information before me indicates that in some instances, there are delays by SAPS to respond to scenes of domestic violence and/or provide assistance to victims, with the SAPS citing that they do not have enough vehicles at their respective stations to respond,” Gcaleka said.

Gcaleka said that within six months, SAPS must conduct training for its members “focussing on gender sensitivity, the seriousness of GBV and its impact on victims and the society at large and the practical application of the Domestic Violence Act.”

Department of Social Development

The investigation found that the Department of Social Development (DSD) does not have enough shelters to cater for the victims of GBV. The Gender-Based Violence Command Centre and Everyday Heroes Programme — key prevention and support programmes implemented by the DSD — do not have sufficient staff and there is a lack of collaboration between the DSD and SAPS in providing support services to GBV victims such as trauma counselling, referral to shelters and health services.

Gcaleka said that within six months, the DSD must submit a detailed project plan to determine the staff needs of the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre and develop a plan with clear timelines.

“To the Kortje family,” Gcaleka said, “we know that this report will not bring back your daughter, mother or sister. But the road she travelled to this very court was not in vain. It has assisted many victims of gender-based violence by highlighting their plight”.

Jeffery said the Department welcomed the report’s findings and remedial measures.

TOPICS:  Crime Gender Policing

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

We welcome the report of the Public Protector, which exposed the shambolic handling of GBV cases by the Justice cluster.

Not only is there a lack of integrated systems that talk to each other, the staff expected to implement the three GBV amendment bills lack the training and capacity to ensure survivors of GBV speedily receive assistance. Whose responsibility is it to ensure this training happens?

I welcome the recommendations by the public protector BUT departments are good at writing brilliant plans for compliance without budgeting for them or executing them.

There should be a monitoring mechanism that provides feedback to women of this country on the implementation of the recommendations.

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