Lack of victim-friendly interviewing rooms – Zakhele Mbhele

DA MP says a total of 189 police stations across the country do not have such facilities

Up to 1 in 10 victims of sexual violence lack victim friendly interviewing rooms in 2016/17 

28 March 2018

Following our parliamentary reply which revealed the number of SAPS stations without Victim Friendly Rooms (VFR), the DA has determined that up to 1 in 10 victims of sexual violence were not interviewed in a victim friendly room during the 2016/17 reporting year.

According to the reply, a total of 189 police stations across the country do not have a dedicated victim friendly room. When these stations are compared against the 2016/17 crime statistics, it becomes apparent that about 3587 sexual offences were reported at these stations.

The worst-performing provinces in this regard were Kwazulu-Natal, at 10.34% of cases, the Eastern Cape at 14.31%, and the Free State at 14.62% - slightly more than 1 in 10 victims.

Today, the DA conducted an oversight visit to Camperdown and Mphophomeni SAPS stations, to establish what facilities they have available for the interviewing of victims of sexual offences.

At the Camperdown police station, victims of sexual offences are interviewed in a repurposed office referred to as a “trauma room” but this room is not ideally suited and its isolation from the rest of the building could exacerbate the anxiety and emotional vulnerability of victims in the immediate aftermath of sexual assault.

The station also suffers from severe personnel shortages, with almost 75 projected vacancies. There should ideally be 8 personnel to a shift, but at present the station can only put 5-6 personnel members per shift. Three of the station’s five vehicles have also been boarded, so they are left with two vehicles to cover two sectors with up to 100 000 people.

But at the Mpophomeni police station, there is no victim friendly room available, and the police station depends on the availability of office space from a nearby NGO.  The closest FCS unit is based in Howick and is grossly under-staffed, with only three members. The station management admits that they only have resources to effectively patrol one of the two sectors under their control at any given time.

The statistics, taken together with the information obtained during our oversight visit, demonstrate how the entire SAPS leadership crisis continues to fail our people, especially victims of rape, due to the under-resourced and under-qualified police service.

This is an indictment on the Police Minister, Bheki Cele, who must ensure that our police stations have the required equipment and trained personnel to process all reported cases of sexual violence.  The DA is adamant that the localisation of resources and management authority to station level is now vital in order to empower station management who prove themselves competent to control their resources to be responsive to their local needs.

Victims of sexual violence and abuse deserve to be treated with the utmost care and dignity. Properly resourced police stations and specialised training for police personnel dealing with victims of sexual violence are key to ensuring this.

Issued by Zakhele Mbhele, DA Shadow Minister of Police, 28 March 2018