According to the data collected by the police, 988 women were murdered by their intimate partners between April 2020 and September 2022.  In roughly the same amount of time, the government was only able to accomplish one out of every five of the goals outlined in the action plan it developed to combat gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF).

Activists believe that the fact that a national council to combat GBVF has not yet been established, even though it was promised four years ago, is the primary reason for the poor development. According to data collected by the South African police, 988 women were killed as a result of domestic abuse between April 2020 and September 2022.

According to a report that was presented at the second Presidential Summit on the subject that was held in Midrand at the beginning of November, the government achieved slightly more than a fifth of the goals in its plan of action to reduce gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) in roughly the same amount of time. This information was presented at the summit. Because, even though it has been promised for four years, a governing committee that was supposed to be established to combat GBVF has yet to be up and running, according to women’s rights campaigners.

We’ve Seen This Before

An earlier iteration of a council to combat GBV was tested in 2012; its primary responsibility was to oversee the implementation of the 365-day National Action Plan to Put an End to Gender Violence, which was first introduced in 2007. According to the findings of the Commission for Gender Equality, the organization was dissolved within 2 years due to its legal power being inadequately defined, it possessed an insufficient amount of funding, and there an insufficient number of non-government representatives.

This time around, to get things moving in the right direction, the End GBVF Collective and the GBVF Response Fund, both of which are non-profit organizations, were founded. This was done while the government was putting the legal framework in place for the current iteration of the council. The End GBVF Collective is a research institute comprised of scientists and civil society organizations that are tasked with the responsibility of launching the National Strategic Plan on GBVF. On the other hand, the Response Fund provides financial support to community-based organizations to assist in the prevention of GBVF and victim protection.

However, the roles of both of these committees were only ever intended to be temporary, and it was always understood that their terms would terminate once the national committee was formed. It is tough to combat a scourge with limited resources, according to a research paper, which is predicted to cost the nation R36 billion in 2019 alone. (For instance, the Response Fund initially committed to provide R162 million; by the end of February, R108 million had been received in the form of cash.)

Dissatisfied representatives at the second Presidency Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide heard from the Minister of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who stated that the National Committee on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill will be enacted into law before April 2023. This information was provided by the state department that is accountable for the GBVF action plan.

However, activists are concerned that this will just be another instance of rhetoric without action. One of the campaign’s founders, Loyiso Saliso, has this to say about the #TotalShutdown campaign: “We had an administration that has a Ph.D. in creating sophisticated policy but a phobia whenever it comes to execute it,” said one commentator. “This is a problem.”

Let’s Take a Look at What Has Been Successful or Not Up to This Point

The Good News is That a Clearer View of Gbv is Starting to Emerge

One of the most significant achievements of the Reaction Fund since its inception in February 2021 has been the development of the GBVF official data dashboard. This tool makes use of statistics provided by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to paint a more precise view of the abuse that is faced by women.

In the year 2020, the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, revealed that the country has thirty GBVF hot sites. The local police departments in certain areas would be eligible for additional funding from the government, which might be used, for instance, to install permanent desks dedicated to the handling of just GBVF cases or to purchase DNA evidence collecting kits (which are crucial for getting a conviction in rape cases).

Academicians Took Issue With the Methodology Used to Compile the List

For example, Lisa Vetten of Johannesburg University decided to write for Bhekisisa that regions that reported the greatest number of sexual assault cases did not appear on the SAPS list. Since these locations were not included on the list, it meant that the DNA kits were not going to the police depots that require them the most.

In addition, neither of these target locations was located in rural regions like the Northern Cape because the South African Police Service (SAPS) only considered the overall number of occurrences that were recorded, and the majority of the problem regions were in areas with a high population density. According to Judith Dlamini, the chairman of the Fund, the newly developed dashboard, which quantifies the rate of occurrences against the populace in a province, uncovered 15 additional hot zones.

She adds that the latest data will eventually assist the GBVF council (after it is set up) to distribute money to programs in places where it is needed the most and that this will be possible because the data will be kept up to date. Up to this point, grant applications from 110 community NGOs have been approved, and they have chosen four go-between organizations that will get financing to assist in supporting 52 smaller groups. According to her statements, the term of the Fund’s board of directors was intended to end in February of 2023; but, because there is not yet a national council, its time has been prolonged until 2025.

Dlamini explains that if the committee is established the next year, the Fund’s executive will remain in place for the subsequent two years to ensure a smooth transition of power.

The Terrible: Where Is The Missing Billion?

Activists who attended the conference expressed their disappointment that government representatives were unable to explain what had become of the R1.6 billion in funding that President Cyril Ramaphosa had allocated for 2019 in the budget.

The funds were intended to be used to finance the Emergency Response Action Plan (ERAP) on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. This is a six-month-long project that is intended to put some urgent answers in place beginning in October 2019. It was proposed that the emphasis be placed on assisting victims in obtaining legal assistance, stopping GBVF from occurring in the first place, and bringing those responsible to justice. As a result of the absence of any reference to this number in the government’s budget reports, the participants at the conference were under the idea that the money that had been allocated for the ERAP had either not been spent at all or vanished entirely.

What Shaleen Gajadhar Has to Say

However, as stated by Shaleen Gajadhar, the spokeswoman for the division of women, youth, and individuals with disabilities, there was never an independent kitty established for this; instead, the six government bodies liable for the emergency plan were required to find finances within their existing budgets and combine it with other funds. After that, the COVID outbreak struck, and a portion of the funding had to be transferred — once more. Because of this, in addition to the difficulty in getting the many departments to share information, it was challenging to get the ERAP off the ground.

According to a report published in 2020 by the Commission for Gender Equality, only 17 of the rapid plan’s 81 objectives were ultimately achieved. This was primarily the result of departments failing to collaborate effectively with one another, improvement not being monitored, and many objectives simply being too idealistic.

The Nasty: Ten Years Without Any Clear Solutions

According to Gajadhar, one of the factors contributing to the new council not being established yet is that we require a framework that is well-resourced, which is something that the unsuccessful council from 2012 lacked.

The South African National Aids Council is, as of right now, the most useful model we have (Sanac). This council, which is comprised of representatives from the government, corporate sector, and civil society, is tasked with ensuring that the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB, and STIs in the nation is implemented effectively. In addition to this, it works to raise funds for HIV-related programs and guides the government in areas in which the plan might be improved. But the way it is structured also has certain limitations. For example, local teams that are responsible for implementing the broad national goals don’t always have the power or money to complete their work.

Passing The Bill

According to Gajadhar, the amount of time necessary to get all of this right when developing the legislation was considerable: “From a biased perspective, it appears to be that two years is a lengthy amount of time.” According to him, however, passing the Bill through the various stages of the legislation system (such as public statements and parliament) is a time-consuming procedure. As soon as the bill is passed and enacted into law, the committee will have the ability to, for example, seek and distribute funding to other organizations as well as overseeing various training programs.

Onica Makwakwa, a director of Wise4Afrika and one of the persons who assisted in the drafting of the GBVF plan of action, is currently participating in the summit. She believes that the program was a complete and utter waste of funds. The argument presented by Makwakwa is as follows: “These funds ought to have been used into putting the government ’s strategic plan into action.” If responsibility only occurs when we get together at expensive conferences like this one, then it’s obvious that we won’t be able to do what we set out to do.

By Wolves