Khayelitsha residents question police response to domestic violence

It has been a year since the Khayelitsha Commission concluded its work on policing. The work of the commission covered a lot of challenges facing policing in Khayelitsha some of which include domestic violence. It found that the police were ill equipped to deal with cases involving domestic violence and  women abuse.

Khayelitsha, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Khayelitsha, with a population of 391 749 according to Census 2011, has three police stations servicing it -Harare Police Station,  Khayelitsha police station in Site B and Lingelethu West Police Station. Despite this, Khayelitsha has a very high rate of crime ranging from murder to domestic violence.

Often and owing to the community losing faith in the police, the people take the law into their own hands and punish the suspected criminals. Over the years the has been a flare of mob justice.

There are various organisations working in collaboration with the police to curb domestic violence. One such organisation is Mosaic. They have offices at Site B Community Clinic.

Mosaic has been helping victims of domestic violence by providing them with counselling and shelter. “Abuses are intertwined,” said Mufaro when asked if domestic violence was the most prevalent in Khayelitsha. “It is very difficult to say there has been any improvement in terms of dealing with domestic violence cases.  We are aware of cases that have been delayed.”

Mosaic offers victims counselling via its Thuthuzela Care Programme which is based at Khayelitsha Hospital.

Another programme Mosaic offers is called Sexual Reproduction Health. “With this programme we target 16 to 24 year olds who are not in formal education. What we do is to teach them about their sexual rights and what to do should they find themselves in an abusive relationship,” Mufaro said.

After numerous attempts to get a comment from the police, Constable Jacobs referred us to his superiors. The email address he gave kept failing while the provincial phone just rang endlessly.

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Residents voiced out their opinions about violence in their township. Nontando Mafanya, a young woman from Site B says she does not see any improvement. “Every night especially on Fridays we hear a woman’s cry and even if you call the police there is  no van or they don’t come,” she said.

The issue of police vans has been going on for too long in this vast township. Bongile Zembe a resident of Makhaya says the issue of distance from his place to the nearest police station to his (Harare Police Station) is daunting. “That police station is too far really, it is for me as a man, can you imagine for someone who has been abused for instance and that police station never has a van available. As far as I’m concerned there has not been any improvement,” he said.

On the other hand, Zanele Mdaka says “violence in general has decreased in Khayelitsha. It used to be bad but now I feel safer than I did before.”

Noncedo echoed the same sentiments. “I don’t know about domestic violence because in my area it is really quiet.” Luyanda from Nkanini informal settlement says domestic violence in his area is quite a problem. “Just last weekend I saw a guy beating this girl that he was with which I think was his girlfriend. They were both drunk coming out of a shebeen. Nobody stopped them. They went home to his  shack together and nothing happened.”

At Mosaic, Mufaro says they attend to at least 120 cases of domestic violence a month. “We have a programme called Mancare+ Programme where we teach men the dangers of domestic violence. This programme runs throughout the year,” he said.

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