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Calls for re-evaluation of SAPS strategies to combat gender-based violence

Sameera Casmod | sameerac@radioislam.co.za
23 April 2024 | 12:35 p.m. SAST
2-minute read

Image: Step Up SA

The recent release of the South African Police Service (SAPS) Annual Performance Plan for 2024–2025 has reignited discussions surrounding the nation’s ongoing battle against gender-based violence.

Lisa Vetten, an expert on gender-based violence and former Honorary Research Associate at the WITS Institute for Social and Economic Research, emphasises the need for a critical assessment of SAPS strategies.

It is imperative that police strategies are revisited and evaluated, Vetten notes during an interview on Radio Islam International.  She points out that while some elements of the plan are necessary, such as training initiatives for new recruits and existing officers, there is a notable lack of critical reflection on the efficacy of these strategies, particularly at the station level.

“The question we really have to ask is, after so many decades of training, why does it not get applied once people are at station level? And the more critical question we have to ask, I think, is: what is going on at individual stations? What’s the station culture that’s in place that undermines all the training that is being done?” Vetten says.

For training to be implemented at the station level, an assessment of current practices at each station needs to be conducted.

Vetten explains that there is also a need for the SAPS to improve training and research surrounding new initiatives introduced through amendments to the Domestic Violence Act, such as the safety monitoring notice.

This notice allows for extra police protection for individuals in high-violence situations, and includes periodic police visits to the GBV victim.

“[It is an] important initiative. I don’t think the necessary guidance has been given as yet to the police as to what is a high-risk situation that you should be paying attention to. And the same with magistrates,” Vetten says.

One of Vetten’s main concerns is the tendency to recycle old strategies without adequately evaluating their effectiveness or considering alternative approaches.

Additionally, there is a need for greater engagement with external stakeholders in the development of police strategies.

Vetten calls attention to certain recommendations within the SAPS plan, such as the instruction to arrest both parties in cases of mutual assault without consideration for the presence of children or the defensive nature of one party’s actions. She highlights the importance of addressing such nuances and providing better guidance to police officers.

Looking ahead, Vetten advocates for continued engagement with the police and a stronger push for research into the quality and status of policing on the ground.

“[We have to] continue engaging with the police. There also has to be a strong push to do much more research looking at what is actual policing. What is the quality and status of policing that’s happening on the ground?” Vetten says.

In conclusion, Vetten urges policymakers and law enforcement agencies to consider the everyday practicalities and complexities of combating gender-based violence, including the unintended consequences of certain strategies and the need for comprehensive, evidence-based approaches.

Listen to the full interview on Sabaahul Muslim with Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat here.

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