Once again a report to the Police Portfolio Committee has shown that our police do not take domestic violence seriously. Today, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) presented its report on the South African Police Service's (SAPS) compliance with the Domestic Violence Act (DVA). The report once again shows that the SAPS lacks understanding of or interest in the DVA, and highlights the Minister's lack of political will to ensure it is implemented properly.
The IPID, formerly the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), has a legislative mandate to investigate non-compliance with the DVA by the SAPS. The DVA was put in place to protect women from violence by their partners. It is the SAPS's responsibility to ensure that these women are protected from abusive husbands and boyfriends by following procedure and the law.
Unfortunately, the IPID report shows that the SAPS is not fulfilling this obligation.
Firstly, the IPID is charged with investigating non-compliance of SAPS members and referring cases to the SAPS for disciplinary action. Of the 104 cases which they investigated between January 2011 and March 2012, 75 are still awaiting a response from SAPS. At the time of this report, 30 cases from the period of January to June 2011 were still outstanding, as were 45 cases from the period of July 2011 to March 2012.
So in the majority of domestic violence cases, the SAPS simply hasn’t bothered to comply with the DVA. Clearly, the SAPS is treating the IPID with the same contempt with which it treated the unit in its former incarnation as the ICD, when it virtually ignored every ‘recommendation’ given.
Secondly, the percentage of stations which are fully compliant with the DVA remains ridiculously low. Of the 263 stations visited during this reporting period, only 14% were fully compliant with the DVA. There is no indication that any action at all is being taken against the defaulting SAPS members.
This despite the fact that the ICD/IPID has repeatedly made recommendations on how the situation needs to be improved.
There are no statistics available to determine the number of domestic violence incidents that occur each year, as SAPS clearly doesn't take this situation seriously. This makes it even harder to determine whether the situation is worsening or improving. Nor is there a record indicating how many of the people whose names appear in the Domestic Violence Register apply for firearms, or indeed whether or not the designated Firearm Officer at the stations investigated checks the Domestic Violence Register before handing out firearm licences.
The IPID report also highlights police stations where officers fail to serve protection orders, especially in informal settlements. Proper training and the threat of being held to account must address this before more women are beaten to death.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Minister is so unconcerned by the SAPS's lack of compliance with the DVA that he did not bother attending the Portfolio Committee Meeting today.
I will be writing to the Minister today to ask what he intends to do to ensure that his department improves this situation. I will also be providing him with the following suggestions:
After four years in office, the DA believes that the Minister should have implemented a coherent strategy to deal with this scourge, and instructed SAPS members to cease treating the IPID like a minor irritation. Crucially, he needs to ensure that all SAPS members are trained to implement the DVA properly, thus sparing the IPID from having to copy and paste their challenges and recommendations from one year to the next.