The Western Cape Department of Police Oversight and Community Safety (POCS) has revealed alarming statistics regarding gender-based violence (GBV) cases in the South African Police Services (SAPS). According to the report, 77 GBV cases were dismissed due to inefficiencies in the SAPS between October 2022 and March 2023. This is part of the broader finding that shows a total of 283 cases linked to 82 SAPS stations across 33 courts were struck off the court roll during the same period.
The POCS’s Court Watching Briefs (CWB) Unit
The POCS’s Court Watching Briefs (CWB) unit, established to enhance police oversight as mandated by Section 206(3) of the Constitution, discovered these findings through the monitoring of various courts across the province. The CWB unit was only able to monitor a portion of the cases, suggesting that the actual number of dismissed cases could be much higher.
The Dismissed GBV Cases
Among the 77 GBV cases, 22 were withdrawn as the dockets were not present in court, while 48 cases were withdrawn due to incomplete investigations. The top three police stations where dockets were not in court were Knysna, Vredendal, and George. In terms of incomplete investigations, the top three police stations were Lutzville, Kraaifontein, and Kuilsriver.
Concerns and Plan of Action
Reagen Allen, the Western Cape Minister of Police Oversight and Community Safety, expressed deep concern over these statistics, lamenting the failure of the SAPS and the entire criminal system in protecting the victims of these crimes. In response to these findings, Minister Allen plans to engage both the SAPS Provincial Commissioner and the Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss possible ways to improve the situation.
The CWB unit recommends the development of an improvement plan by SAPS to minimize the number of cases struck off the roll due to their inefficiencies. Minister Allen also highlighted the importance of understanding the breakdown between investigators and prosecutors, as well as ensuring appropriate accountability for officers who have failed their citizens.
Need for Change
These findings emphasize the need to devolve SAPS to a capable provincial government to guarantee a credible, trustworthy, and professional service that effectively protects victims of crime. The plight of GBV victims in the Western Cape has been brought to light through these findings, revealing a troubling reality in the province’s criminal justice system. It is essential that the public remains informed and proactive in pushing for change to ensure that vulnerable individuals are not left to suffer at the hands of a flawed system.