Government outlines plans to deal with GBV and xenophobic violence

Protesters from hostels in Johannesburg marched on September 8 2019. Carrying weapons, including knobkerries, the men sang, 'foreigners must go back to where they came from'.
Protesters from hostels in Johannesburg marched on September 8 2019. Carrying weapons, including knobkerries, the men sang, 'foreigners must go back to where they came from'.
Image: Sunday Times/Alon Skuy

SA's justice, crime prevention and security cluster ministers on Tuesday outlined plans to deal with gender-based violence (GBV) and attacks on foreigners that have rocked the country in recent weeks.

Government also revealed, at a media briefing, that it was in the dark about the number of undocumented foreigners in the country.

Leading the team was minister of defence and military veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula who outlined several plans on how government wanted to deal with the situation.

They included:

• Early warning systems on an ongoing basis

Mapisa-Nqakula said the government would strengthen police to ensure speedy arrests of perpetrators of both GBV and attacks on foreigners in an intelligence-driven operation.

"Intelligence agencies are working day and night to detect and prevent the occurrence of these violent incidents and we now know a lot of these have been nipped in the bud because of the early warning systems," said Mapisa-Nqakula.

"We put a lot of emphasis on intelligence-driven investigations and operations and therefore we are trying to avoid a situation of arresting wrong people and leaving out perpetrators of violence."

• Sexual offences and GBV cold cases

The government was planning to set up a committee comprised of the SA Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to resuscitate cold cases.

Mapisa-Nqakula said: "SAPS has committed to training more female officers to deal with victims of GBV at station level. This will go a long way in ensuring that victims are not subjected to secondary victimisation."

According to government, police minister Bheki Cele has been tasked to convene vice-chancellors from universities to relook at campus security given "high levels of sexual offences at institutions of higher learning".

• A review of laws

Mapisa-Nqakula emphasised what had been lamented by president Cyril Ramaphosa that the law should make provision that those convicted of sexual crimes not be granted parole.

Furthermore, government would canvass the judiciary to see if it was possible to put cases related to GBV and sexual offences onto court rolls within 30 days.

"When you are charged for sexual crimes, there should be stricter bail conditions for this category," she said.

• Stats and facts on recent public violence

Close to 700 suspects were arrested since September 1 due to the violence in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni, said Mapisa-Nqakula.

The minister said more than 170 of those arrested were captured thanks to intelligence-driven operations.

A total of 12 people had died - 10 of them South Africans and two foreigners. They were arrested for crimes such as public violence, arson, malicious damage to property, attempted murder, murder, possession of illegal firearms and robbery.

• The deportation of undocumented foreign nationals

Mapisa-Nqakula said government would continue to send home those in the country without proper documentation. According to her, this had always happened.

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said government did not know exactly how many such people were in the country and neither did StatsSA.

"It would be a very wild guess, nobody knows. We have even tried with StatsSA but it is not their practice when they do census to ask people if they are documented so frankly speaking we do not know but obviously they do not want to be known," said Motsoaledi.

• Employers charged for breaching immigration laws and porous borders

Law enforcement had charged 1,048 employers for breaching immigration laws, half of them from Gauteng.

Mapisa-Nqakula said: "Home affairs is preparing to implement the pilot phase of the border-management authority shortly after the bill has been finalised through parliament. This will improve the security of our border line and facilitate easy movement of goods through our ports of entry."

Mapisa-Nqakula concluded that government remained concerned by "misinformation and fake news" driven by people disseminating images and video purported to be something they were not on social media platforms.


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