Minister to visit family of ‘corrective rape’ and murder victim

In Johannesburg, women, children and people with disabilities’ minister Lulu Xingwana will visit the family of ‘corrective rape’ and murder victim Duduzile Zozo.

“We are very pleased the Minister is taking an active role in meeting with the families of the victims of crime. But statistics show that there are over a million victims of crime a year, and they, their families and loved ones have very little access to psychosocial care. Much of that is provided by cash strapped ngos. Civil society is calling on government to take a more proactive stance on victims of crime, and pass legislation to give victims of crime the support they need.” said Alison Tilley, on behalf of the Victim Empowerment Legislation coalition.

Significant research and consultation has already been completed which has demonstrated that the solution to the provision of comprehensive, adequate, consistent, meaningful and universal victim empowerment support and services lies in the adoption of one consolidated victim empowerment law based on the governing policy of the National Crime Prevention Strategy. The Victim Empowerment Legislation Coalition advocates for law that will require the necessary comprehensive range of services and support to heal and empower all victims of crime.

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A conference of thought leaders leads to some stimulating plans

By Jen Thorpe

I attended the gathering yesterday to discuss the way forward on the Victim Empowerment Legislation Project. The project has been ongoing since 2010 and has been investigating the feasibility of and interest in new legislation to support the victims of crime. With hundreds of thousands of new victims in 2011, this project is becoming increasingly important.

What then are the key issues? The changes that the project coordinators would like to see happen via legislation would have five parts:

  1. Creating a system to education the public about the workings of the criminal justice system (in particular for victims of crime)
  2. Creating standards around giving information to victims of crime about their cases and creating a Road to Justice card, which will centralise the information about the victim that remains in the hands of the victim
  3. Developing affordable mechanisms for psychosocial care (such as counselling, and medical assistance) for victims of crime
  4. Creating a Victim’s Ombud that would be empowered to hold service providers accountable across departments
  5. Creating systems for intersectoral collaboration

There was a feeling that although there are pieces of legislation, policy, and systems in place that aim to assist the victims of crime, these are dysfunctional or not well utilised. Some members of the group felt that we should concentrate on these existing tools and make sure that they work well, before introducing new legislation. Others felt that legislation was central because of the associated budget allocations.

The victim’s ombud also got everyone talking. Models such as the Public Protector and one in the health sector were profiled. Most people felt that this would be a good mechanism to assist victims in achieving a sense of control and power over their experience. This would be implemented as part of the five prong strategy, to ensure that victims were aware of the process of justice in their case, and their rights to access these services.

I thought the most interesting discussion was about the framing of the issue of ‘victims of crime’.

Part of the problem, argued Lisa Vetten, was that victims of crime are not a powerful political constituency that government or political parties have to take seriously. In essence, nobody’s going to win any votes for standing up for victims of crime. What this means is that it’s really easy for victims to be ignored. Like the ‘vulnerable groups’ ministries, these are seen as soft issues and so are silenced.

The second issue relating to framing is the idea of the feminisation of the word ‘victim’. Because of its association with vulnerability, victimhood has been feminised, or associated with women. Women’s issues are not taken seriously by a patriarchal government, and hence victims are ignored.

The final issue relating to framing is the types of victims we hear about in the media, and the media’s reflections of victims. This contributes to misconceptions about what it means to survive a crime, and the impact on the mental health of survivors. There is also the feeling for many survivors of crime, that ‘at least you survived’. You’ve heard it before when someone is mugged, raped, or robbed – ‘at least they didn’t kill you’.

Take a second now. Think about someone you know that is a victim of crime. Maybe it’s you or a loved one. What was the impact of that crime? Was it just an inconvenience? Did it make you or them afraid to live their lives in the way they normally did? Did they have costs associated? Medical bills or replacement of goods? Most South Africans know at least  one person who has been a victim of a serious violent crime.

Is the violence of South Africa’s past conducive to victims accessing their rights? Is the way we think about victims useful in empowering them to access these rights? One of the key points is that we need to stop thinking in vague terms of ‘feeling better’ and start thinking in terms of accessing rights and demanding justice.

What do you think might be ways we can move from this difficult position to a powerful constituency? How do we mobilise victims of crime from various contexts to ensure that they can demand their rights?

The day covered difficult topics, but it was with a sense of hope and excitement that everyone left. Can’t wait for the next phase.

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Only the beginning: The invitation of VEPSA campaign relaunch


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VEP is Back!

Thanks to the efforts of the Women’s Legal Centre, the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust and the Open Democracy Advice Center, the Victim’s Empowerment Programme campaign in back and ready to advocate for legislation! Tomorrow, a cadre of civil society organizations will gather at the Townhouse Hotel to review the state of the work and strategize on the way forward. Follow us on twitter at victim_power_sa and  visit our Facebook group Victim Empowerment SA! Be sure to check out our blog again for conference updates and insights.

It’s good to be back, South Africa!

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Victim Empowerment SA – End of the project

Victim Empowerment SA has sadly come to an end. We have enjoyed all of your feedback and hope that you continue to use the blog as a resource. However, we will no longer be responding to your posts or comments.

All the best for 2012

The VESA team

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Ministers shop while communities continue to be terrorized by rapists

18 April 2011

Last month there was a furore when it emerged that a huge delegation of South African ministers and assorted hangers-on had forced themselves onto the guest list of the UN’s gender summit and then failed to attend a single session. And while Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and others were spending thousands of taxpayers’ rands on lavish hotels, under-funded community organizations were struggling on to halt the scourge of sexual violence.

The recent spate of marches and protests across the country shows the extent to which communities have had enough of shoddy – if not non-existent – provision of care to victims of rape and sexual assault. On Friday 15 April 2011 a wide cross section of community-based organizations marched on the KwaZulu Natal legislature in protest.

The level of anger is so high that when Bongiwe Zondi of Justice and Women asked how many people would be attending from Sweetwaters township near Pietermaritizburg, the reply was: “How many buses can you send to fetch us? We are tired of rapists terrorising our community!”

The marchers said that even if these rapists are arrested, they are generally swiftly released on laughably low bail and allowed to return to the community to intimidate victims and witnesses into withdrawing charges.  Rape survivors are often not provided with post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection and also have to contend with shocking levels of ignorance and misogyny both from the police and the justice system.

Zondi recently took on the case of a lesbian who was raped. The magistrate in the matter chose to declare her an unreliable witness on the grounds that she had two children, and therefore could not really be a lesbian.

These are the very real challenges that community-based organisations face on a daily basis. But the National Policy Framework (NPF) mandated by the 2007 Sexual Offences Act, which could address many of these difficulties, is now more than two years late and has not been properly consulted around. The organizers of Friday’s march handed over a petition to the Legislature calling for movement and consultation around the NPF. Their action marks the start of a series of protests planned for the next few months by members of the Shukumisa Campaign to demand better treatment of victims of sexual violence.

The NPF needs to ensure that there are

  • Clear standards for provision of services to victims of rape and sexual assault;
  • Clear time-frames for implementation;
  • Clear roles for civil society groups involved in victim support services
  • Adequate services for people with disabilities, children and gay and lesbian people.

For more information please contact: 

Amber Howard, Justice and Women     084 366 8086                                    

Lisa Vetten, Tshwaranang                082 822 6725                                   

Joan van Niekerk, Childline                     083 303 8322

The KZN march was organized by Justice and Women (JAW), Lifeline/Rape Crisis, Family and Marriage Society of South Africa (FAMSA), Gay and Lesbian Network (GLN), Vulamehlo, Masiphile Projects, and Umphithi Men’s Forum

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Recommendations for South Africa

By Emily Pizzale

Not that I am an expert by any means, but using the knowledge and experience I’ve gained over the past three months, I have come up with a short list of recommendations for South Africa and how as a country she could improve her delivery of services and actions of the criminal justice system.

  1. Provide training for law enforcement and medical examiners regarding how to assist rape survivors in the most sensitive and effective way. Survivors of rape should not have to worry about the treatment they will receive from the officer they report their rape to or the medical/forensic examiner who collects the evidence for their case. There is no excuse for the incorrect collection of evidence.
  2. Ensure the proper documents, such as information on compulsory PEP services and HIV testing, are available at their proper locations such as rape crisis centers, police stations, hospitals and clinics. A survivor needs to be made aware of the many services that are available to them.
  3. Focus on opening more all-in-one clinics such as Thuthuzela, which provide everything a survivor of rape could need all in one place, such as counseling services, police and medical care. Having to be shuttled, or rather finding his or her own transport from place to place puts unneeded stress on a survivor of rape; when everything is in one place this is one less thing a survivor has to worry about.
  4. Implement education campaigns aimed at debunking harmful myths on rape, such as “women asking for it” based on their style of dress or alcohol or an intoxicated state implying consent. In my opinion, the younger the age these campaigns are targeted at, the better the results. Knowledge is the way to lasting change for the future and South Africa’s youth are South Africa’s future.
  5. Reform the court process in that; a survivor of rape should be treated as a key component to his or her own case. A survivor should be heard and her or his report of what happened should hold heavy sway in the case. A survivor should be guaranteed the same rights as his or her attacker. A survivor should be not only allowed but also encouraged to both attend and give a statement at all parts of a case including but not limited to the bail trial, the trial and the parole trial.
  6. Provide a prosecutor for the victim whose main goal is to protect the victim from further harassment during the court trial. A survivor of rape should not be afraid to take their case to trial; seeking justice should not include a side of harassment. It will not be the prosecutor’s job to decide or prove that the attacker is guilty or innocent but rather to simply look out for their client’s (the survivors) best interests. Only both parties can benefit from the truth being exposed.
  7. Compensation must be provided for the medical services a survivor of rape must pay for, the time spent away from work and the counseling services he or she may require among other expenses. A general fund must be set up and the funds used effectively to provide monetary compensation for survivors. A survivor should at the very least be provided with a safe place to stay, food, running water, childcare and transportation if she or he cannot provide these things for themselves.
  8. Information and notification should be provided of how a trial will work, what the survivor can expect, and what is not legally required of them to answer. A trial can be a very intimidating and confusing space for an already traumatized survivor and the survivor needs to be informed of what will happen. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with it can instill confidence in the survivor, which can potentially lead to a more successful case for them.
  9. Increase the conviction rate for rapists. There is only a 12% conviction rate here in South Africa, not to mention that most go unreported and many that are reported never go to trial. There is a very small portion of rape cases that actually make it to trial and only about 1 out of 10 of these cases end in a conviction. We should not be afraid of convicting criminals; if the evidence is there to support the crime, they must face their sentence and learn from their mistakes. Allowing rapists to go free only increases the chances that they will rape again as there was no punishment for their actions and also further discourages survivors from reporting their rapes as they see that there will be no conviction for their attacker anyways. A survivor should not feel as though they will go through the complicated and traumatic court process entirely in vain.
  10. The most important thing we can offer to survivors of rape is to restore a feeling of safety. Rape is a deeply personal and invasive crime perhaps unlike any other. Our criminal justice system should respect the victim every step of the way and certainly not be the cause for additional trauma, harassment or stress. There should be respect for the victim every step of the way, whether it’s supporting them, informing them or protecting them from further harm. Anyone who encounters a survivor of rape should treat them with the utmost respect and care taking into mind the trauma they have been through and how they must be feeling.

Many of these suggestions require no change in the existing legislation but rather the legislation already in place needs to be adhered to. These recommendations should therefore be quite easy to attend to. Service providers need to be held accountable for their shortfalls and individuals who violate the rights of the survivor should be prosecuted and fired for doing so. Service providers are there to do just that, provide services; if they are not doing their job they are essentially, useless. If these 10 simple recommendations are even partially met South Africa could see a great improvement in the overall satisfaction with service providers and the criminal justice system. Individuals need to speak up and hold their fellow employees and employers accountable and strive for the best that they can do. As South Africa has seen before, one voice or one person can make all the difference.

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From the Women on Farms Project

13 April

Women’s organizations were dismayed to learn this week about the planned “National Consultative Meeting” on the proposed Gender Equality Bill called by the Department for Women, Children People with Disabilities (DWCPwD). This NCM is scheduled to take place on 14th April 2011 in Pretoria; however, very few civil society organizations are even aware of the initiative and the department is making no resources available to support the participation of organizations in the consultation. The Department is effectively saying: if you make your way to Pretoria, great, if not, there is nothing we can do about it.


This is completely unacceptable, especially in the light of recent media reports about the huge expense incurred in sending a delegation of 49 government officials, including eight ministers and deputy ministers (at a cost of R81,104 per business class flight) to New York for two-weeks. The delegation is reported to have not attended most of the sessions of the United Nations Gender Summit where they were supposed to represent us.


Not only are we nowhere near reaching gender equality, many of the gains we made for women in our initial democracy seem to be on the reverse with devastating consequences, especially for poor women. South Africa is not only the most unequal society in economic income terms, but also one of the most violent societies for a woman to live in.


We further note with concern that there is a recent trend for the Ministry of Police to exclude gender-based violence in its annual crime statistics release. It is unacceptable that while violence against women in South Africa is getting worse, it is falling off government’s agenda as a national crisis facing society.


The undersigned organizations call on:

  1. Public Prosecutor Madonsela to investigate the allegations about the wasteful expenditure made in respect of the trip the UN Gender Summit.
  2. President Zuma to illustrate to women voters that the ruling party is serious about gender equality by intervening to ensure that an adequate budget is allocated to the National Consultative Meeting to ensure a meaningful national consultation on this crucial Bill. If adequate resources are not availed, then the meeting cannot be called a national consultation and should be reconstituted as a meeting of government officials.
  3. The Minister of DWCPwD to postpone the meeting, send invitations to a broad spectrum of relevant civil society organisations, and lobby the Office of the President for the necessary resources to enable the participation of civil society in the consultation.



Fatima Shabodien            Women on Farms Project                            072 795 5857



1. Rape Crisis Trust, Cape Town

Jennifer Thorpe



Noelene Blekkenhorst



Bernedette Muthien





5. Sustainability Institute

Eve Annecke

6. Rural Education, Awareness and Community Health (REACH)

Claudia Lopes


7. Triangle Project

Jill Henderson



Sally Shackleton

9. Women’s Legal Centre

Aretha Louw


10. Southern African Media and Gender Institute (SAMGI)

Arnelle Meyer


11. Community Law Centre, UWC

Sam Waterhouse


12. Western Cape Network on Violence against Women

Claire Mathonsi



13. Tswaranang Legal Advocacy Centre

Lisa Vetten


14. Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre

Lesley Ann Foster



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On Friday 15 April over 1200 1in9 Campaign volunteers, both women and men, will participate in the 5th annual ‘Sexual Violence = Silence’ Protest. The protest, organised by the 1in9 Campaign in conjunction with the Rhodes University Dean of Students Office, aims to show solidarity with rape survivors who are silenced by sexual violence. Both staff and students have participated in previous years and this year several members of the university’s senior management will be taking part for the first time.



15 April from 06h00 – 23h00

Great Hall, Rhodes University, Prince Alfred Street, Grahamstown, Eastern Cape



For the past 5 years student activists at Rhodes University, led by the 1in9 Campaign, have staged this protest in order to draw public attention to rape and to demand better services for survivors. Government crime statistics reveal that 72 500 women are raped in SA annually. Of these only 4% are successfully prosecuted and less than half of 1% of perpetrators will serve any jail-time. The 1 in 9 statistic, also the name of the Campaign, is derived from research conducted by the Medical Research Council in 2005 that focused on reporting and non-reporting of rape survivors. These statistics translate to approximately 650 000 rapes annually.


These numbers are unacceptable. Rape limits human potential; it silences people, makes them feel less than human, keeps them afraid and creates isolation. Our protest on the 15th of April affirms our solidarity with the 8 in 9 women silenced by rape and sexual violence. Freedom of Speech is denied to victims of sexual violence. Despite the laws and policies that have been put in place, patriarchal attitudes and misogynist practice render laws and policies meaningless in the lives of many rape survivors. Survivors face victim-blaming, secondary victimisation and social stigma when they speak out about the violence they have experienced. State service providers do not always respect the rights of rape survivors and fail to comply with norms and standards set out in national legislation and policy; these are just some of the reasons why reporting of rape cases remains low.



  1. to highlight the state’s silence around sexual violence and its inability or unwillingness to support rape survivors and successfully prosecute rapists.
  2. to symbolise all rape survivors whose voices are silenced by rape and to represent the 8 in 9 rape survivors who do not report their violation.



There are FOUR different kinds of participation in the day-long protest on 15 April:

  • Silent women: T-shirts with ‘sexual violence causes silence’ on the front & explanation on the back (gagged all day, no food or water)
  • Rape survivors: T-shirts with ‘rape survivor’ on the front & explanation on the back
  • Men in solidarity: T-shirts with ‘solidarity with women who speak out’ on the front & explanation on the back
  • Women staff members & students with health issues: T-shirts with ‘solidarity with women who speak out’ on the front & explanation on the back



06h00    Gather at Great Hall on Friday 15 April.

06h00 – 07h00   T-shirt distribution

07h00 – 07h15   Briefing and address by organiser

07h15 – 07h45   SILENCING

07h45 – 08h15   Group photos in front of Main Admin of ALL, then SILENCED, SURVIVORS and MEN IN SOLIDARITY.

08h30 – 12h30   Lectures & tutorials as usual. Protesters to remain visible.

12h30 – 14h00   DIE-IN outside the library in the Quad. ALL (silenced, survivors & men is solidarity) PROTESTERS GATHER.

14h00 – 17h00   Lectures & tutorials as usual.

17h00 – 17h30   ALL volunteers gather outside Main Admin and process from via Drostdy Arch down High Street to the Cathedral


17h30 – 19h00   Debriefing, discussion & reflection

19h00 – 19h30   GAP ‘Take Back the Night’ March

19h30                    Supper at the Great Hall

20h30                    Breaking the Silence concert at the Great Hall



Larissa Klazinga

Rhodes Student Services Officer

1in9 National Steering Committee Member



The One in Nine Campaign, founded during the Jacob Zuma rape trial in 2006,  aims to mobilise support for survivors of sexual violence; to educate and change attitudes about sexual violence and to monitor the criminal justice system and court processes in rape cases. Members of the Campaign include: AIDS Legal Network, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Engender Health SA, Forum for the Empowerment of Women, Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre, OUT, People Opposing Women Abuse, Rape Crisis, Rhodes University, South African NGO Coalition, Sonke Gender Justice, Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme and the Treatment Action Campaign. For more information visit

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A Reflection on South Africa’s Criminal Justice System

By Emily Pizzale

I came to South Africa three months ago knowing very little to nothing about how the current criminal justice system and law enforcement functioned here. I had been made aware by the media’s narrow scope that one of South Africa’s big issues was rape, but I knew little more than that fact.

When I first began my internship at Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust (RCCTT) I started with a LOT of reading. I read so much my eyes watered and my head hurt, but I also learned a lot. Understanding South Africa’s criminal justice system and how it was supposed to work was very helpful in understanding how it fails to work.

It was very frustrating for me to learn how inefficient the system was. I had heard far and wide about South Africa’s incredibly liberal and human rights based Constitution developed by Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC), as well as the strong emphasis it placed on gender equality. But upon arriving to South Africa and RCCTT, I heard horror story after horror story about rapists being acquitted of all charges, evidence not being properly collected, victims being harassed and harshly cross examined during their trial and most importantly and saddest of all, rape survivors being unable to access the multitude of rights set out for them in their constitution.

Upon reading the constitution I realized the rumors to be true, it was a very liberal document, a constitution I wished my own country’s were modeled after, but I soon came to the realization that these rights were not being doled out to everyone equally. There was a gap in the legislation and the services actually being provided.

Police officers and medical examiners were not trained in how to best assist a survivor of rape. They were often harsh and disbelieving as well as guilty of victim blaming. Survivors were forced to travel from place to place as all the services they needed were hardly ever located in one safe and convenient location. Defense attorneys often revictimized the survivor during the trial process as the survivor was treated as little more than a witness to the state’s case and therefore was subject to cross examination, often without the protection of a lawyer.



Hearing all of these stories was a very difficult thing for me to deal with on a day-to-day basis but I stuck with it in my hunger for knowledge and understanding. I couldn’t see the linking factor between how such wonderful human rights policies could exist and then how victims of crime were actually treated. What it came down to was that service providers simply needed training and regulations that were set in place need to be followed or else the service providers would face a penalty. After all, the regulations were there for a reason – to improve services.

It was very interesting for me as an American to learn about and eventually understand the court process in South Africa and the way in which a survivor of rape is represented and used in her or his own case. It was surprising and frustrating to me that a survivor of rape is entitled to very little participation in his or her own case and is practically barred from the bail and parole decisions. A survivor of rape is also not well protected by their lawyer and is subjected to such harsh cross-examination it is almost as if they committed the crime. I am very thankful that I have learned so much about South African legislation in such a short amount of time but now I need to figure out what to do with this knowledge and how to put it to better use.



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