Thando Nondlwana

By Thando Nondywana

News Reporter

GBV victims still draw the short straw

NPA claims 75% GBV conviction rate, experts cite obstacles like withdrawn cases, police inefficiencies, and neglect of domestic violence.

Despite National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Shamila Batohi claiming a 75% conviction rate for gender-based violence (GBV) cases, experts disagree.

Kwanele Operations manager Ronel Koekemoer said common obstacles faced by GBV survivors seeking justice is the inaccessibility of support systems.

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“Engaging the justice system takes time and by the time survivors reach the trial stage, they are often no longer in the same position they were in when they first sought help.

“Trials can take years and the judicial process is incredibly burdensome on survivors, which means that many survivors withdraw between reporting and a case getting to the prosecutor.”

Many cases withdrawn

Koekemoer said that it was misleading of the NPA head to claim there was a 75% conviction rate because many cases are withdrawn.

A study published by the SA Medical Research Council in 2017, put that number at between 5%-8%.

“To just say the NPA has a lot of power around which cases actually make it to trial is misleading,” said Koekemoer.

“So many prosecutors evaluate cases based on merit but also because of factors that are related to cultures. These are factors that survivors are not always privy to and also often mirror pervasive social attitudes around the ideal GBV victim and survivors.”

However, Lisa Vetten from the Wits City Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand said it was a major concern that the justice system only paid attention to sexual offences, while neglecting attention to domestic violence.

“Domestic violence doesn’t have specific statistics and we know we have significant problem in SA. But what happens to these cases?

“We also don’t know the full extent, as the department of justice stopped providing data on the number of protection orders. This data would give us more insight,” Vetten said.

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The statistics of the second quarter of 2023-24 show that between July and September 2023, the country recorded 10 516 rapes.

The stats also revealed 14 401 assaults against female victims and 881 murders of women. According to the Western Cape MEC for community safety and police, Reagen Allen, 89 GBV cases were struck off the court roll within six months due to police inefficiencies in the province.

According to Busisiwe Phalatsi, executive director of Lungelo Women’s organisation, that highlights the extent at which the Saps and the entire criminal justice system is failing GBV victims.

“Police are not sufficiently trained to handle the reporting of rape cases,” she said.

“One also has to consider misidentification of perpetrators, as well as how confessions are made. In South Africa, there has been a very long delay on DNA forensics which impacts on conviction rates.”