Cabinet’s security cluster has detailed its plans to deal with gender-based violence and ongoing xenophobic protests targeting migrants from African countries.
On Tuesday the justice, crime prevention and security (JCPS) cluster — which comprises 11 national departments, including state security, defence, police, and justice — outlined several interventions to help quell recent violent incidents.
On protests targeting migrants, the cluster said crime intelligence and early warning systems have prevented several flare-ups
But the government remains firm that the protests are not due to anti-immigrant sentiment.
“The evidence presented to the JCPS cluster has not shown that foreign nationals are being targeted because of their nationality. On the contrary, we are seeing acts of criminality,” Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said.
So far, 12 people have died in nearly two weeks of protests, mainly focused in Gauteng. Two of the fatalities were foreign nationals, while ten were South African citizens.
More than 700 people have been arrested on charges ranging from public violence, arson, theft, gun offences, and murder.
“South Africa is not a xenophobic country. Whoever is found on the wrong side of the law with be dealt with,” said the defence minister.
The minister said intelligence services are working to detect violent incidents.
“A lot has been nipped in the bud. Intelligence-driven investigations are ongoing to identify suspects and ring leaders.”
However, none of the security cluster ministers at the briefing in Parliament would clearly identify who they believe stands to benefit from ongoing instability.
“We don’t know who’s behind the unrest. But suppose we had that information. Would that be open to the public? Or would we be using that to prevent what is happening…There are elements of criminals who are taking advantage of the concerns of ordinary South Africans,” she said
Ministers also reported back on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s assurances last week that his government will ensure perpetrators of gender-based crimes are convicted and punished.
The government said police and the National Prosecution Authority will set up a committee to look into all cold cases involving sexuall offences and gender-based violence.
“SAPS has committed to training more female police officers to deal with victims of crimes against women and children at station level. This will go a long way in ensuring victims are not subjected to secondary victimisation,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.
Ministers also are looking into implementing stringent bail conditions for people charged with a gender-based crime, and even the possibility of denying bail for anyone previously convicted of a sexual-related offence.
But Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said the first step must be determined if that would be in line with the constitutional provision of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a court of law.
“We have to look into what the constitution says about due process. But magistrates are able to take into consideration the concerns of the community… Our communities are unambiguous about what is currently happening, and they want stricter bail conditions. So it is something to be considered,” Lamola said.
As per President Ramaphosa’s instruction, unsolved sexual offence cases will also be reopened, while SAPS has committed to training more female officers at station level to deal with victims of crimes against women and children.
Police management also plans meetings with the heads of tertiary institutions in an effort to reassess campus security to keep female students safe.