Domestic Violence Act to be amended

As published in: Legalbrief Today (27/02/2013)
Category: Policy Watch
Issue No: 3223

Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister Andries Nel has confirmed that the South African Law Reform Commission is in the process of reviewing provisions in the Domestic Violence Act 116/1998, writes Pam Saxby for Legalbrief Policy watch.

When questioned about possible amendments to the Act during an eNews Channel Africa interview last Thursday – having earlier described it as ‘one of the best and most progressive pieces of legislation in the world’ and ‘absolutely groundbreaking’ in its provisions for the protection of women – Nel conceded that, while ‘basically sound’, certain provisions in the Act had resulted in ‘serious implementation problems’. A transcript of the interview was published yesterday on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development website.

During public hearings on the Dangerous Weapons Bill recently held by the National Assembly’s committee on police, a call was made for a re-evaluation of the statute’s impact on the abuse of women – particularly in view of the burgeoning number of cases of domestic violence across SA.

According to committee chair Annalize van Wyk, who was quoted in a media statement issued at the time, it is ‘clear’ that the Act is not adequately protecting women. With this in mind, she has invited the SA Police Service to identify areas of the Act needing to be amended. Van Wyk also questioned the reasoning behind allowing the perpetrators of domestic violence to own firearms. Civilian Secretariat for Police Act 2/2011 made monitoring and compliance with the Domestic Violence Act one of the Secretariat’s functions.

Interview about Domestic Violence with Dep.Min of Justice

Transcript copy of Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Andries Carl Nel’s interview about domestic violence

(as seen on eNews Channel Africa (eNCA), Thursday 21 February 2013)

Ayanda-Allie Paine (eNCA News Anchor): let’s turn our attention to this now for a moment. The portfolio Committee on Police is calling the amendment for the Domestic Violent Act. The recent increase of domestic violence case has prompted the call to also re-evaluate the Impact the legislation has had on the fight against women and child abuse. The Chairperson of Parliament’s police committee, Annelize van Wyk says the Act doesn’t adequately protect women. Let’s get a reaction from the Deputy Justice Minister, Andries Nel. A very good morning to you and thank you so much for your time.

Question: Does a piece of legislation as it stands suits or benefit women?

Deputy Minister Andries Nel: Very definitely, I think the Domestic Violence Act is one of the best and most progressive pieces of legislation in the world and I think at the time it was adopted, it was absolutely groundbreaking in the provision that it had on the protection of women and also the fact that it was one of the few pieces of legislation in the world that recognize same sex of couples as domestic partners for the purpose of that Act.

Ayanda-Allie Paine: Deputy Minister, if I may interject there. Why the need to make amendments? What are these amendments you seek to make?

Deputy Minister Andries Nel: I think the legislation is basically sound. However, there are number of provision within the Act that have cause complication in terms of implementation. We have asked the South African Law Reform Commission to look at the legislation, to look at where it can be improved and especially, to look at those provision that have run into serious-serious implementation problems to be reviewed.

Ayanda-Allie Paine: The South African Judicial System is under scrutiny not just with the case of Oscar Pistorious but also in previous judgment made against high profile public figures. In your opinion, do you think that our Judiciary is lacking?

Deputy Minister Andries Nel: I think our judiciary and our Criminal Justice System is a very-very sound system. Our Criminal Justice System has succeeded in less than 20 years, to bring down the murder rate in this country from 32000 to 16000 murders. Many other levels of serious crime have come down. That is because, as crime Justice System, we have reviewed that system; we are implementing the plan to bring together Police, the Prosecution, Courts, the present Legal Aid, and Social Development into very-very tight and effective system. I think we’ve seen that during big event such as the World Cup and we have seen that in a number of other instances. Are there problems? Yes, there are problems. Are there serious problems? Yes, there are serious problems. Do we have plans to address those? Yes, we do. Are we addressing those? Yes, we are.

Ayanda-Allie Paine: One of those problems you might be talking about is the issue of Secondary Victimization, many abused women or rape victims saying that they don’t want to take their cases to court because is just not properly handled in the Judicial System?

Deputy Minister Andries Nel: Well, absolutely, one of the reason why the Minister of Justice announced that we will be re-introducing Sexual Offences Courts. Those courts will focus on sexual offences, they will have judicial officers that are experienced in those matter and they will have Prosecutors and support staff in those court as well as facilities such as Videos, Testifying Facilities such as separate Waiting Facilities for victims and witnesses that will minimize that Secondary Victimization. In addition to that, we have a system of Thuthuzela Care Centres, 51 in total, 32 of which are fully operational and we have to bring up to 45 during this year, where a victim of sexual offences can go and receive one stop support, for medical personnel, for Counselors, for other Social services to make sure that he or she is not shuttled through the Criminal Justice System and subjected to that Secondary Victimization. These centres has being very-very successful and in fact they represent the International base practice they are being implemented incorporated in many other parts of the world and even being called Thuthuzela Care Centre in those countries.

Ayanda-Allie Paine: Deputy Minister if I may cut in there quickly, my apology for ……….

Deputy Minister Andries Nel: if can just quickly say, the Thuthuzela Care Centre, since the previous financial year to this year the number of victims who have come those centres has risen from 20000 to 28000. I think that is an indication that people do have confidence in our Criminal Justice System. Yes, they are problems. Yes, we are attending to those.

Ayanda-Allie Paine: Will have to leave it there for now, thank you so much for your time, Deputy Justice Minister Andries. Thank you again.

Offensive tweets could mean jail time – lawyer

A lawyer has warned South Africans to be careful about what they tweet, because offensive posts could result in charges being filed – and even a possible jail term of between three and six months.

Emma Sadleir, a social media lawyer at Webber Wentzel, is quoted in a report in The Times as saying Twitter and Facebook users who put up racist or offensive posts could be charged with crimen injuria or face a complaint under the Equality Act.

‘It is not unusual for a person who is found guilty of crimen injuria to be imprisoned in SA,’ Sadleir said. ‘I know of two separate cases in which policemen were called [by] the ‘k’ word and in both instances, the person was sentenced to jail for a period of three to six months.’

Like any other form of publication, online users are held liable for all comments they make on social networks, even when retweeting and sharing posts. The report notes Sadleir said anonymous users were not exempted from criminal charges, or complaints laid with the Equality Court against unfair discrimination, harassment and hate speech. This is because it is possible to get a court order compelling a website to hand over any information like e-mail or an IP address identifying the person who set up the account.

The Right2Know campaign has lashed out at the government for failing to comply with the Promotion of Access to Information Act

Two out of three requests for information through PAIA were refused by government departments last year, spokesperson Murray Hunter points out in a report in The Times.

‘If compliance with the Promotion of Access to Information Act is a litmus test for the state of government and corporate accountability, the signs are worrying,’ he said. According to a 2012 survey by the South African History Archive, which facilitates and tracks Promotion of Access to Information Act requests, of the 159 submitted, 102 were either outright refused or simply received no response within the 30-day deadline.

‘While the ‘big ticket’ secrets get much attention, many South Africans are denied much more basic information that they need in their daily lives and struggles,’ said Hunter. This ranged from information pertaining to housing lists to water pollution, municipal budgets and corruption. Director of the Institute for Accountability Southern Africa, Advocate Paul Hoffman, is quoted as saying the government appeared to be preparing ‘for the more secret and less open form of administration’.

Read more…>

http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2013/02/19/access-to-info-act-no-help-r2k

Cloud of secrecy descending on SA – study

A study by the advocacy group Right2Know has identified an increase in the use of apartheid-era security laws to keep information out of the public domain. There are also more refusals by public and private organisations to provide requested information and a growing trend towards withholding the details of party-political funding, says a Business Day report.

Among the trends noted in the 2013 Secret State of the Nation Report is a 54% rise in the use of the National Key Points Act to keep data secret and a more than 60% refusal rate for Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) requests. Critically, notes Business Day, this comes ahead of the possible enactment of the Protection of State Information Bill which, if approved in its current form, is likely to see an increase in data being classified as secret. Referring to the National Key Points Act, the report says the number of buildings being declared key points is rising. Using SAPS data, it says that in the last five years the number of key points has risen by 54%, although there is no published list.

http://www.bdlive.co.za/national/2013/02/19/report-shows-growing-use-of-apartheid-era-security-laws

National Director to head up ‘bench book’ editorial team

From 13 to 16 Feb Street Law facilitated a discussion with 60 magistrates from all over the country on their experiences with the implementation of the Child Justice Act 75 of 2008.

The aim of the discussions was to identify areas of non-compliance, inadequacies and/or challenges with the implementation of the Child Justice Act. In addition the magistrates nominated individuals from among themselves to form part of an editorial team that will be responsible for the compilation of a resource manual (‘bench book’) for use by magistrates. The editorial team will be headed by Lindi Coetzee.