Police Minister Bheki Cele has said the South African Police Services (SAPS) was working towards ensuring that all police stations across the country have a dedicated desk to deal with cases of gender-based violence.
Cele was on Monday leading a panel of ministers who form part of the security cluster who were part of a discussion addressing issues relating to the capacity of the criminal justice system to combating gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF).
Cele said such a desk would be manned by a dedicated police officer and would be ensured that it is a friendly environment that is accessible.
Such a desk is important because the national prosecuting authority (NPA) said that the first point of contact will determine when a case of GBVF will be successfully or unsuccessfully prosecuted, Cele said.
He said: “That is what we are working towards,” adding that the 1153 police stations across the country would have such a desk so that they are victim-centred.
Cele’s comments came after the head of the SAPS’ family violence, child protection and sexual offences unit responded to a question on whether the police are adequately trained to deal with cases of GBV.
The general said in dealing with such cases, the conduct of some officers remained a big concern for the SAPS despite all police officers being subjected to gender-based violence programmes during their training.
The general said during training, police officers are trained on a number of acts, including the Domestic Violence Act and Child Justice Act, and that they receive training on victim empowerment, on human rights and other related programmes.
Even the 3,000 police officers that will be enlisted on 1 October will receive training on dealing with domestic violence cases, the general said.
The general said all of SAPS’ client service centres are furnished with posters that remind both members of the public and police officers on the rights of the former and responsibilities of the latter when a case of GBV is reported.
These rights and responsibilities include that no victim of GBV should be turned away from a police station. They must be treated with respect and dignity, must be interviewed in victim-friendly service centres and where the latter is not available, a private room should be provided, the general said, adding that victims should be referred to health facilities.
“Only trained experts” who are part of the FCS units are to investigate cases of GBVF, the general said, adding that police should provide continuous updates on cases.
The general conceded that the SAPS “are not yet there” but said training programmes are being reviewed.
He said, however, that there are a lot of good police officers.