The rape of eight women at a mine dump in Krugersdorp on Gauteng’s West rand last week has once against shined the spotlight on the increasing incidents of gender-based violence in the country. The incident has also brought to the fore challenges facing the South African Police Service relating to resources and personnel which have been found to contribute to the ineffective response of the police to crime.
The Commission on Gender Equality conducted an oversight visit to almost 70 police stations across the country to assess some of the mechanisms they have put in place to deal with issues relating to gender-based violence.
But what they found highlighted the enormous challenges and pressures that police work under. Gauteng for instance, which is the smallest and yet densely populated province, had a total of 143 police stations servicing a population of almost 16 million people.
“One police station in Gauteng services 109 000 people. KwaZulu-Natal, one station services 62 500 (people). It does look like, in terms of service delivery there are nodes where there are extreme pressure points for SAPS. We are also aware that recently SAPS announced that they are building new stations. Whether it will be sufficient to change this pressure, that is the question,” says the acting chairperson of the Commission on Gender Equality Dr. Nthabiseng Moleko.
Crime in Krugersdorp
The community of Westvillage near Krugersdorp where the rapes happened at an abandoned mine dump – has publicly highlighted the fear they live under due to the high rate of crime in the area and how they’ve reported this on numerous occasions to the police without success. The Independent Policing Union of South Africa says police are not proactive but reactive in their approach to dealing with crime.
“That is as a result of the pressure that is mounting on the police officials who are not well capacitated when it comes to resources and police officers whose numbers have also dwindled. So, these things have made us make this call. And by doing an audit report we will be able to know exactly which police station is not well resourced in terms of the resource allocation guide,” says the union’s Mpho Kwinika.
Shortage of resources
The Commission on Gender Equality says across the stations they went to throughout the country there was a general shortage of vehicles. Moleko says there are also massive delays in the receiving results of DNA samples from laboratories. And in rape cases, this could result in delays in the prosecution of the perpetrators.
Moleko says in the police stations they visited there were no resources to do programmes to prevent violent crimes.
“There is a dearth of programmes that are preventative, we are always responding. Even if we caught 10 000 rapists, are there spaces in the prisons, are there spaces in our courts? We have got to deal with this issue of preventing.”
Programmes to deal with crime
Police say there are mechanisms in place to deal with crime including illegal miners who are alleged to be responsible for the rapes of the women. National Police commissioner Fanie Masemola addressed the media in Pretoria.
“We have established teams in provinces that have got mines that in Free State, Northern Cape, North West, Gauteng, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga. And there have been operations even two weeks ago, there was an operation that netted more than 200 Zama Zamas.”
But chairperson of the Gauteng Community Safety oversight committee in the Gauteng Legislature Alphina Ndlovana says the provincial police’s strategy to deal with Zama Zamas is lacking and needs improving.
“Their strategy is not convincing, we’ve requested them to come up with a better strategy which will be able to assist the communities that are residing next to the Zama Zamas.”
It is clear that a lot more resources, manpower, and proactive crime prevention strategies will be needed to deal with the scourge of gender-based crime and illegal mining.
More than 80 suspects have been arrested in terms of the rapes in the area: