Lamola said this when the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster fielded questions in the National Council of Provinces on Tuesday at a time that gender-based violence and femicide has come under scrutiny.
He had been asked whether his department and the National Prosecuting Authority have taken any steps to meet the commitment by the President to bring all the state’s resources to support vulnerable women and children and to ensure that perpetrators of violence against them face the full might of the law.
“Yes, the Justice sector, including the judiciary, continues to make a substantial contribution into the government’s endeavor to combat gender-based violence and femicide as well as in measures to protect women and children,” he said.
Lamola said in respect of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the National Prosecuting Authority, the commitments come in the form of Sexual offences courts and Thuthuzela Care Centres.
The sexual offences courts continue to yield high conviction rates. To date, 102 sexual offences courts have been rolled-out across all provinces. He said the specialised courts are equipped with upgraded technology to provide private testifying services, particularly for children, persons with mental disabilities and traumatised witnesses.
The Thuthuzela Care Centres, which are one-stop care facilities based on hospital premises, provide support services for victims of sexual offences, with the aim of reducing secondary victimisation.
He said during the 2019/20 financial year, 35 469 victims were assisted in Thuthuzela Care Centres, with 31 807 being specifically in relation to sexual offences. There are currently 55 Thuthuzela Care Centre sites across the country and processes are underway to expand to six more sites within the current Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period.
In line with the Presidential Summit Declaration and the GBVF National Strategic Plan, the department promulgated regulations relating to sexual offences courts, which were gazetted on 7 February 2020. The regulations set out support services intended to create a justice system that is quick, responsive, caring and effective for victims of sexual offences.
Lamola said the department has drafted three Bills that are aimed at curbing the scourge of violence against women and children which are under consideration. These are:
- The Criminal and Related Matters Bill to, among others, introduce stricter bail and sentencing provisions;
- The Domestic Violence Amendment, which seeks to address the gaps and anomalies which have manifested themselves since the Domestic Violence Act came into operation in 1999; and
- The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill which seeks to extend the protection afforded to victims of gender-based violence and to introduce a new offence of sexual intimidation and to extend the ambit of the offence of incest.
Lamola said the Bills, which the department hopes to submit to Cabinet during the July cycle, are in response to the President’s call to the nation of the government’s effort to curb gender-based violence as another pandemic that is engulfing the South African society.
“Yes, the impact of the lockdown on the inmates is dire as the postponement [of] cases result in prolonged jail time and this puts [an] additional strain on the overcrowded correctional centres.
“To ameliorate this challenge, the courts continue to prioritise cases where accused persons are in custody.
“The accused persons are also being brought to the courts as a means of reviewing the bail circumstances in terms of section 63A of the Criminal Procedure Act.
“…cases which were and continue to be struck off the roll due to the lockdown are continuously being reviewed and re-enrolled in accordance with the priority court roll that every court must compile.”