The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) would like to commend the amendment on the prescription of the Sexual Offences Act. This amendment exemplifies that justice never rests, it restores hope in many who have been victimized and gives those who have been victimized an opportunity to see justice regardless of time.
This amendment lifts the prescription for sexual offences irrespective of when the crime occurred. The Gauteng High Court struck down section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act, the court found the provisions of the Act to be unconstitutional as it barred in all circumstance the right to institute prosecution for all sexual offences other than rape or compelled rape after a twenty year period from the time the offence was committed. The court further found the arbitrary differentiation between rape or compelled rape and other sexual offences for purposes of prescription to be irrational and unconstitutional. In a unanimous judgement, the Constitutional Court later confirmed the High Court’s order and declared section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act to be inconsistent with the constitution and granted Parliament 24 months to enact remedial legislation.
It provides protection to survivors of any sexual offences by allowing them to come forward despite the length of time that has passed since the offence was committed. However, in order for the law to be implemented effectively, the various role-players at the different stages of the criminal justice system need to be adequately trained and sensitized about the violence faced by the vulnerable members of our communities.
The Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry aimed to find the root causes of a failing policing system in Khayelitsha, however the report spoke to many systemic failures in many police stations across the country. In environments fueled with violence and chaos, the vulnerable members of those societies are the hardest hit. One of the recommendations in Khayelitsha Commission report spoke to fallacies that urgently needed to be remedied for effective policing especially in informal settlements.
The establishment of the Makhaza police station is yet another critical area of the recommendations that has not been implemented six years later. The establishment of the Makhaza police station was recommended in order to alleviate and even out the reporting and processing of crimes in the whole of Khayelitsha. This police station would also allow for the second establishment of an FCS unit in Khayelitsha. It is noteworthy that FCS units are another crucial part in the fight against gender based violence.
The SJC calls on the Minister of Police, provincial, regional and district SAPS heads to train its members on the new amendment as well as implement a legislative framework that will be proactive and deal with the root causes that plague our communities. The SJC commits to cultivating relationships with other civil society groups that are actively involved in the fight against gender based violence to create a cohesive and realistic roll out of this amendment. The need for training courses and research programmes are critical to adopt and implement effective solutions towards gender based violence. Although this is a step in the right direction, we can no longer rely on reactive solutions.