MAVERICK CITIZEN

Murder, rape and robbery: Eastern Cape women and children under siege

By Estelle Ellis 3 December 2019
Caption
Protesters march against gender-based violence at the JSE in Sandton on 13 September 2019. (Photo: Alet Pretorius / Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Shocking statistics released by the MEC for Safety and Liaison in the Eastern Cape has shown an alarmingly high incidence of crimes against women and children in the province, coupled with a dismal conviction rate — but activists say that government should stop doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.

From April 2018 to March 2019 2,695 children were raped in the Eastern Cape and 375 were sexually assaulted, 4,082 women were raped and 432 sexually assaulted. The total number of crimes against women and children, including murder, attempted murder, assault and robbery was more than 29,000 — almost 1,000 more than the previous year.

Of cases opened with the police, MEC for Safety and Liaison in the Eastern Cape, Weziwe Tikana, said there were 399 convictions in cases where children were raped and only 40 convictions for the 153 children murdered during the same period.

Eastern Cape MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, Weziwe Tikana. (Photo: supplied)

Of the 507 cases opened after women were killed in the province, only 151 resulted in convictions. There were only 637 convictions for rape — a rate of 15%.

Tikana cited liquor outlets that were open for 24 hours a day as a major contributing factor in these crimes, and witchcraft as a factor in the killing of older women.

The impact of these devastating statistics are hammered home by accounts from Eastern Cape communities.

Pastor Neville Goldman has been working with the police to fight crime in Nelson Mandela Bay’s gang-ridden areas.

“I will tell women that I can get them a job today, but they don’t want to take it because they want to be at school when the children come home — they fear their kids will be raped on their way home.”

Similarly a counsellor, who asked not to be named, said:

“We hear the girls talk on a Monday morning. They will tell each other that they were raped, but they never report it. It is like they have given up hope that something will be done,” she said.

Activist Lindsay Ziehl. (Photo: supplied)

“We must stop spending money on the 16 days of Activism. We should spend that money on the victims, not on everybody else making a profit out of this,” said activist Lindsay Ziehl, who has received an MBE for her work in this sector.

“It will be madness to expect domestic violence to stop if nothing is being done to stop it. People have been saying that we should stop gender-based violence for years, but nobody does anything to stop it. I came here 19 years ago and nothing has changed,” she said.

She said a lack of shelters in the Eastern Cape for women and children who are victims of abuse is a major problem.

“I think we only have four shelters in Port Elizabeth. But also, women can’t stay there for an extended period of time because shelters do not have money. If they have nowhere else to go, they are often forced to go back to their abusers.

“We are basically pushing women back to situations they have been in before — and got hurt,” Ziehl said. She believed that for all the cases reported in a year there are probably another 5,000 or 6,000 who remain quiet.

“They are made to feel guilty — especially survivors of rape. Also what happens when they have to leave the court after giving evidence? Many have to go home because they have nowhere else to go. That is one of the reasons why many women don’t want to fight,” she said.

“We really need more resources that are spent appropriately. In the United Kingdom there are sections of law enforcement that only deal with domestic violence. These officers — they check on the survivors and the perpetrators. It makes people think twice,” she said.

She said she still finds it shocking that perpetrators of abuse receive counselling and rehabilitation and can often qualify with a degree while in prison, but their victims get nothing.

“A lot of the women that I have dealt with were dependent on their abusers. They had no careers of their own. They have kids, but they have no money of their own. The perpetrator gets a bed, three meals, medical care and can learn a trade — all for abusing a woman.”

Ziehl said often survivors of abuse can’t even access free counselling services because they do not have transport money.

“I firmly believe we should spend an equal amount of time and money on the survivors of rape and abuse. The majority of women do not even know what to do when they are abused — many women do not even know there is a shelter where they can go for temporary safety.”

She said the system of protection orders put in place to protect women and children against domestic violence were not working.

“If you don’t take a violent domestic abuser off the street that piece of paper is useless. I can’t tell you how many women came to me with protection orders that were ripped up by their abusers. Many don’t even want to leave the house because the man they fear might be standing around the corner.”

During a press conference organised by Women and Men against Child Abuse last week, activist Luke Lamprecht said conviction rates for crimes against children are extremely low.

He said their figures estimate that only one in nine cases are reported even though one in three children will be abused by the time they are 17.

“Of the 35% reported, 40% to 60% are withdrawn by the police or the National Prosecuting Authority,” Lamprecht said, adding that only 8% result in a conviction.

In November 2019 President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a project to reopen cold cases as part of government’s strategy to fight gender-based violence. Eastern Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Thembinkosi Kinana confirmed that they were looking into a number of investigations again.

The Democratic Alliance spokesperson on safety and security, Bobby Stevenson, who requested the information from Tikana, said the MEC’s figures mean a staggering 80 women and children in the province are victims of crime every day.

“Patriarchy and toxic masculinity alone cannot be blamed for the situation. They are symptomatic of the collapse of our institutions and moral values in our society.

“The truth is that violence cannot be solved through policing alone. There needs to be a massive cultural shift in South Africa. Interventions need to take place from early childhood to prevent exposure to, and normalisation of, violent behaviour,” Stevenson said. MC

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