Special units clock up life sentences

JON HOUZET
 
MINISTER of Police Nathi Mthethwa said the Eastern Cape police need to trumpet their successes in sexual offence, child abuse and domestic violence cases as the public was not aware of them.
 
Mthethwa was in Port Alfred on Tuesday last week to meet with provincial police top brass about the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Units, which were re-established last year after being disbanded several years ago.
 
Acknowledging the police had made a mistake in disbanding the units, Mthethwa said people with training and passion for this specialised work had been moved to other sections, and reporting of sexual offences had suffered as a result.
 
There are 27 FCS clusters in the Eastern Cape, and the commanders of all units attended the meeting with the minister at the Halyards Hotel.
 
Since the specialised units were re-established, they had seen 59 life sentences handed down, said Mthethwa.
 
“Three happened within the last week and people should be told about it.”
 
The Eastern Cape is the seventh province Mthethwa has visited on his rounds to all the provinces to monitor the work of the FCS units.
 
Mthethwa’s spokesman Zweli Mnisi said sexual offences, particularly rape of women, children and the elderly had continued to increase but government remained committed to fighting the scourge and ensuring those responsible were arrested and received harsh sentences.
 
“We believe if we are able to deliver a blow to violence against women and children, it will go a long way to reducing crime,” Mthethwa said.
 
Calling rape “the mother of all crimes”, he said the violent nature of contact crimes were all derived from rape.
 
“A lot of violent crime is by children. Where are they learning this? From seeing their moms and grannies raped,” he said.
 
He said sexual offences often happened among acquaintances, and communities tended to look the other way, using the excuse that ‘it’s a family matter’. This perception had to be combated, he said.
 
He said the FCS units were looking at ways of “working smarter” by making use of technology like computers rather than keeping manual records.
 
Altogether the units have 365 members, but are short-staffed by 32 members. “We still have to strengthen the force on the ground,” he said.
 
“This is specialised work. During the shutdown (of the units) it was difficult to do any kind of reporting (of these crimes), because people doing the work were reporting to people not involved in the work,” said Mthethwa.
 
“We’ve had a problem in the past with other members not appreciating the value of this work. They would say: ‘Why should we bother with the nappy squad?’ If they view it like this they don’t see it as a priority.”
He said passion and commitment was a job requirement for all FCS members.

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