Police Minister Bheki Cele has called on officers to prioritise the protection of women, children and all vulnerable groups, and intensify efforts to tackle gender-based violence (GBV).
Making the call during his address at the launch of the 2021/22 annual National Safer Festive Season campaign at the Brits showgrounds in the North West, the Minister said there was an urgent need to arrest the plague.
He said police need to go the extra mile to make sure that women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities and people of all sexual orientation are safe, respected and protected.
Said Cele: “Police, this is one area we will have to measure our success; when women and children of South Africa can move [freely] in the middle of the night without fear of assault, rape and being attacked by these unscrupulous… men.
“It is important that this [festive season] is one time we zoom in on men because it is of no use to say to women, ‘protect yourself’. We need to speak with perpetrators, we need to say to men: ‘Women have a right to live. They have human rights and they don’t need any assistance from you’. Yours as men is to give them the space to fly.”
Turning his attention to the perpetrators of violence, he said it is critical that they have discussions among themselves on how this crime will be brought to an end.
“I believe that men need to listen. Men need to take the lead and make sure that once men stop raping, there will be no women raped. It’s no use to say women should take care of themselves.
“… [Women] need the space to be allowed to live their lives and lead themselves.”
Turning his attention to the consumption of alcohol in copious amounts during the festive season, Cele said this usually gives men the “false inclination” to abuse women.
“Don’t drink, get drunk and then rape women. It’s important that police rise, walk tall and respond when women cry because they have been abused by these men.”
He called on all officers, especially those in the Community Service Centres, to treat women who report abuse and violation with care and dignity.
“Yours is to respond. Never send women back to negotiate. For the fact that they are at the police station, it’s because they’ve tried every other means. It’s not your job to tell them to go back and negotiate, you’re not a negotiator.
“Don’t [expose them to secondary victimisation]. Don’t ask women about the length of their skirts. It’s none of your business. Women have the right to dress as they wish.
“The aim is for the criminals to hear us, for the criminals to feel us, see us and run. It’s just a notice that we are here. It should not just be as if we came here and left (sic).
“This is the time when we come together with communities to work together to make sure that the festive season is safe for South Africans and all the guests and those who have visited South Africa.”
Asserting rule of law
Outlining the festive operational plan, National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole detailed a multi-pronged strategy, saying it will largely focus on stamping the authority of the State.
The strategy will also centre on a community-centred policing approach.
During the festive season, he said, police visibility will be heightened visibility and intensified.
“There will be integrated crime prevention operations to ensure the wellbeing of all residents and tourists in the country.”
The 2021/22 festive season will be the second year during which police will balance crime prevention and crime fighting with the enforcement of Disaster Management Act, as the country and the world battle the Coronavirus pandemic.
Operations are characterised by a strategic network consisting of a national crime combatting strategy, community policing strategy, national safer city strategy, the community and “Country in Blue” strategy, as well as the traditional policing concept.
Having determined the possible crime threats of the festive season, Sitole said the national crime combating forum has identified six priority focus areas.
The first is intensified operations focusing on GBV crimes, with the period coinciding with the country’s annual 16 Days of Activism campaign.
The second area of focus will be vigilance of money-related crimes, with the high rotation of money during this period on the rise.
Thirdly, during this time, SAPS will also enhance existing border security operations, with stronger attention to the possession of stolen property being smuggled out of the country, illegal border crossings, human trafficking and tracing of wanted suspects.
The fourth focus centres on the enforcement on legislation on the proliferation of illegal firearms.
“We will also be enforcing the legislation applicable to liquor, second-hand goods and sport and creation facilities,” Sitole said.
The last two focus areas are strengthening partnerships with law enforcement agencies, with a clampdown on abandoned buildings, unlawful liquor sales and the illegal use of firecrackers during New Year’s Day celebrations.
Together with metro police departments and traffic police, strategy focuses on road safety.
During this period, Sitole said high visibility will be the order of the day.
“Net operations will be conducted across the provinces on days and times aligned to the threat analysis for the duration of the festive season,” he said.
North West Premier Bushy Maape said the province is currently experiencing a rise in serious crime, with GBV, stock theft and illegal mining ranked high.