Access to justice remains difficult for Mqhekezweni women

by MMC
0 comment

Writer: Nomathamsanqa Masiko-Mpaka | Researcher | Human Rights Watch

Photo: Community members protest against gender-based violence in Vlakfontein, South Africa, August 25, 2021. © 2021 Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Images

“The problems we are experiencing in our village are rapes, murders and general lawlessness which has reached crisis proportions. People are raped, killed, shot and their livestock stolen. There are two women in the village who were raped, after two months they are raped again, after another three months they are raped. The situation has become so serious that several families have abandoned their homes, fearing for their lives.

These words from Nogcinile Mtirara, a 70-year-old woman and member of the AbaThembu royal house in Mqhekezweni, paint a grim picture of the lives of the residents of Mqhekezweni, a village about 40 kilometers from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. Hearing these words, I oscillated between outrage, anger and anguish at the women who have been raped, some repeatedly, and the attackers rarely, if ever, brought to justice.

I spoke to Mtirara and others as part of Human Rights Watch’s investigation into access to justice for sexual violence.

Once describe Described as a “magic kingdom” and “delicious” by Nelson Mandela, who spent his formative years in Mqhekezweni, the village today faces high rates of house theftspetty crime, stock theft, murder and, as Mtirara points out, rape.

Sexual violence is widespreadendemic, and a persistent nightmare for women in South Africa. More than 100 women were raped every day from April to June this year alone, according to the latest police crime statistics. More than 1,100 women and children were murdered during the same period. THE World Population Review for 2023 ranks South Africa among the top six countries with the most femicide rate global.

Although I was aware of the extremely high rates of sexual violence in the country, what shocked me was the recent media reports of a new phenomenon in the village of Mqhekezweni. There, criminals allegedly force women to pay “protection fees” to protect themselves from rape. The police station in Bityi, the closest police state to Mqhekezweni, says it has not received any reports of such cases, but residents of the village are talking about them. Warrant Officer Majola Nkohli, Eastern Cape spokesperson, told Human Rights Watch that police were aware of the extortion allegations in the media but did not have sworn statements from any victims . He said the Bityi station commander would discuss with villagers and encourage them to report cases they know of.

Residents of Mqhekezweni, particularly women, have reported several issues that increase their vulnerability, including inadequate street lighting and the location of police stations. The distance to the nearest police station, a case’s first point of entry into the criminal justice system, poses a huge barrier to achieving justice. Bityi is approximately 25 kilometers from Mqhekezweni.

As one woman points out: “The police station is far away and we have a problem with poor road infrastructure. If there is a crime and you need the police to come, they will tell you that the police vehicle is in another village, so you have to wait, sometimes for days.

The question of the lack of resources of the Bityi police station was raised meticulous examination. Station services 62 villagesnotably Mqhekezweni, Mvezo, Qunu, Xongorha, Xwili and Mpunzana, but does not have enough vehicles and officers to police all areas under its jurisdiction.

On 26 August 2023, the Premier of the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane, held a imbizo at the national heritage site of the Great Place of Mqhekezweni. Police Minister Bheki Cele took the opportunity to deliver two police vans to Bityi police station. Minister Cele also spoke about plans for the police station to be modernized, which he said would result in greater visibility of the police on the ground, as well as the allocation of more resources to ensure effective and meaningful intervention to combat crime in the region.

I hope that the commitments made by Minister Cele are not part of a PR exercise for Women’s Month, but rather a genuine and concerted effort to address the concerns of the people of Mqhekezweni, particularly the most vulnerable – women and children.

The Constitution’s Bill of Rights enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values ​​of human dignity, equality and freedom. THE 2020 National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide aims to provide a coherent, multi-sectoral strategic policy and programming framework to strengthen a coordinated national response to the crisis. Yet implementation has been limited.

Protection from violence is an often elusive human right – and one that is compounded in rural contexts. South African authorities must urgently close the gap between the promises of the Constitution and other legislation aimed at combating violence against women and the realities of women, marginalized people and those living in rural areas.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

The news website dedicated to showcasing Africa news is a valuable platform that offers a diverse and comprehensive look into the continent’s latest developments. Covering everything from politics and economics to culture and wildlife conservation

u00a92022 All Right Reserved. Designed and Developed by PenciDesign