GBV requires an entire community to work together to eradicate it Photo Pexels
South Africa – Police Minister, Bheki Cele has rallied for a year of action to address the concerns and grievances voiced by the public. This comes at a time when South Africans are awaiting the upcoming quarterly crime statistics with many feeling the minister has failed in protecting citizens.
As part of their efforts, the police have introduced Operation Shanela, a nationwide armed intervention aimed at tackling crime head-on. This operation encompasses intelligence-led disruptive operations, the meticulous tracking and tracing of wanted suspects, the removal of illegal firearms from circulation, and heightened policing over weekends. The collective objective is to enhance public safety and restore peace within communities.
While this operation takes place, significant progress has also been made in reducing the historic DNA backlog at crime laboratories by a staggering 99%. However, the impact it has had on gender-based violence (GBV) issues remain uncertain. GBV is still at an all-time high, explained Safia Asfat, from the Brixton victim empowerment Centre.
“They only realised that 2023 is the year that a difference must be made when our women, men and children are being killed every minute of every day. When the government itself has no proper places of safety in the community.”
Asfat tirelessly serves the community of Ward 58 in Johannesburg. However, the sheer volume of cases she encounters within this single ward raises deep concern. If such a significant number of cases exists within Ward 58 alone, one can only imagine the extent of abuse occurring throughout the entire country.
Protecting those who suffer from GBV
Asfat astutely highlighted that abuse within communities often finds its roots in the intertwining factors of substance abuse, unemployment, and the influence of a patriarchal society. To counteract these distressing realities, the Brixton Victim Empowerment Centre plays a pivotal role in providing robust support structures for individuals who have endured any form of abuse.
“I try to get involved as much as I need to get a restraining order out. Going as far as removing these women, allowing them to pack a bag and leave. Trying to empower them back into society again. Getting them a job again and if they don’t, teaching them something so that they are able to empower themselves and their kids if they have any.”
However, the pressing issue of a shortage of safe houses persists, hindering the process of providing secure shelters for those seeking refuge. Asfat houses them at her home, but she is only able to keep three women at a time and it can take up to six months before they are ready to leave.
Asfat collaborates with counsellors and a clinic up the road to try and ensure access to healthcare and psychologists for those in need. By nurturing such partnerships, Asfat envisions the creation of safe houses that can accommodate women for extended periods, offering not only shelter but also crucial psychosocial counselling.
Cele revealed that over R1-billion has been set aside for the construction and modernisation of police stations. Furthermore, an additional R30-million has been set aside to ensure that more mobile Community Service Centres are available to communities. In response to Cele’s call for action, coupled with the relentless efforts of organisations such as the Brixton Victim Empowerment Centre, a pathway toward addressing complaints and empowering victims emerges. By confronting these pressing issues head-on, society can collectively strive for a safer, more compassionate future for all.
Safia Asfat engaged in a heartfelt conversation with Julie Alli, delving into the uncharted territory of the ongoing battle to safeguard victims and curtail the alarming prevalence of GBV. Tune in to the conversation here: