Men who abused women and children were worse than animals, National Commissioner of the SA Police Service Geberal Bheki Cele said in Port Elizabeth today at the official relaunch of the specialised Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS).
The scrapping of the FCS in 2006 was met with public outrage and while South Africa’s overall crime statistics have decreased for the second consecutive year, crimes against women and children have been on the increase.
The head of the reinstated FCS unit General M Y Botsheleng said 1 864 police officers have been specially trained to staff 176 FCS clusters throughout the country. She said 286 of the special officers were deployed at 27 FCS clusters in the Eastern Cape.
Cele said the SAPS planned to recruit many more women to work for the FCS because it was difficult for women to report sexual abuse ordeals to men. Meanwhile, he urged male FCS personnel to treat women complainants with respect, remembering that they might be in both physical and emotional pain.
He said policemen should not put women in danger by advising them to go back home and negotiate with their abusers. And when women victims came in for help, policemen should not comment on personal matters like the wearing of short skirts.
“You are not fashion advisers. You are police officers.”
He said parents — especially mothers — should listen to their children when they said they were being abused at home.
“Don’t tell them to be quiet because the man in question was paying for the family’s food. By tolerating abuse you are turning your home into a brothel,” he said.
Cele also warned men and their accomplices — especially in the Eastern Cape — that the so-called “ukutwala” tradition of abducting young girls and forcing them into marriage, was unacceptable.
He urged communities to make a principled decision that they would not remain quiet if they knew of women and children who were being abused.
“It is my wish that one day it will be possible for women in South Africa to walk alone at midnight without fear of being raped or attacked.”
Representatives of various organisations including the National Prosecuting Authority, the Department of Social Development and gender activist bodies signed a pledge to support the fight against crimes against women and children.
In an interview, Family Policy Institute director Errol Naidoo said the reinstatement of the FCS unit together with the Government’s recent adoption of a policy document that acknowledged that healthy families were the key to the success of South African society, were encouraging developments.
However he said the Government could not restore families on its own. They could only create an environment in which families could thrive. But it was up to the church, in partnership with the Government and others, to bring about family restoration.