17 January 2005
Plans are afoot for the implementation of a new charter spelling out the rights of, and services to be provided to, victims of crime in South Africa.
South Africa’s new Victims’ Charter, approved by the Cabinet at its last meeting for 2004, aims to ensure that victims remain central to the criminal justice process in SA by clarifying their rights and the services to be provided to them – and by helping to make these rights a reality.
The director or the gender desk in the Department of Justice, Joyce Maluleke, said the department, in conjunction with related departments, had already started training personnel to ensure that the Charter became an effective tool when it was rolled out.
“We have already trained 384 staff in KwaZulu-Natal, and by February we will begin to simultaneously train all remaining eight provinces”, Maluleke said, adding that the coastal province would be used as a pilot.
Related departments include health, correctional services, education, the National Prosecuting Authority and the South African Police Service.
“As government we have been inundated with complaints from the public saying we protect perpetrators of crime more than the victims”, Maluleke said. “With this Charter we aim to balance the equation.”
The Victims’ Charter identifies seven rights of victims of crime: the right to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity; the right to offer information; the right to receive information; the right to protection; the right to assistance; the right to compensation; and the right to restitution.
The Charter seeks to ensure that victims receive prompt redress for the harm they have suffered through access to the criminal justice system.
It also aims to change the mindset of service providers in order to ensure that victims’ rights are observed.
By publishing and circulating the charter, government seeks to ensure that members of the public know what they are entitled to, and what to do if the service they receive falls short of these expectations.
At the same time, by providing detailed minimum standards to accompany the charter, a clear indication is given to the police and other sections of the criminal justice system of what is expected of them.
Maluleke said rural areas had to be prioritised in implementing the Charter, adding that the alignment of demarcations was key to ensuring that all services could be accessed in one area without difficulties.
“You can imagine the pain that a victim of rape has to go through when they report a case at a local police station and have to travel farther to a clinic for observation”, she said.
Between February and April 2005, the department will undertake an intensive drive to educate communities about the Charter.
“We have already secured slots with the SABC for talk shows in all languages, and we will hold an NGO stakeholders forum to unpack the Charter to NGOs, since they deal with people on the ground”, Maluleke said.