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Myths and Stereotypes, Skills Deficits and Disengagement: Dee Smythe Explores Police Failure in Rape Unresolved

Rape UnresolvedUCT Press is proud to present Rape Unresolved by Dee Smythe

More than 1 000 women are raped in South Africa every day. Around 150 of those women will report the crime to the police. Fewer than 30 of the cases will be prosecuted and no more than 10 will result in a conviction. This translates into an overall conviction rate of 4-8 percent of reported cases. So what happens to all the other cases?

Rape Unresolved is concerned with the question of police discretion and how its exercise shapes the criminal justice response to rape in South Africa. Through a detailed, qualitative review of rape dockets and victim statements, as well as interviews with detectives, prosecutors, magistrates and rape counsellors, the author provides key insights into police responses to rape. A complex picture emerges, of myths and stereotypes, of skills deficits, of disengagement by police as well as victims. Responsibility for the investigation of the cases – and their ultimate failure – is shifted onto the complainants, who must constantly prove their commitment to the criminal justice process in order to be taken seriously.

The vast majority of rape victims who approach the criminal justice system in South Africa do not receive justice or protection. This book uncovers the faultline between the state’s rhetorical commitment to addressing sexual violence through legal guarantees and the actual application of these laws.

About the author

Dee Smythe is professor and director of the Centre for Law and Society in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town. She is also senior lecturer in the Department of Public Law. She is recently the co-editor of In search of equality: women, law and society in Africa (2014, UCT Press) and Marriage, Land and Custom (2014, Juta), and co-author (with Lillian Artz) of Should we consent? The politics of rape law reform in South Africa (2008, Juta).


List of acronyms
List of cases
List of statutes

CHAPTER 1 – Charges dropped: an introduction to attrition in South Africa
- Attrition points and processes
- Attrition in other crimes
- South African studies on rape and policing
- ‘Real rape’ and attrition
- Rape in South Africa
- Why does attrition matter?
- A note on terminology

CHAPTER 2 – Paper rich: rape in South African law and practice
- International and constitutional framework
- Enforcing state obligations
- Rape law in South Africa
- Statutory rape
- National policies
- National instruction on sexual offences
- Standing Order (general) 325: Closing of case dockets –
withdrawn, undetected, unfounded, responsibility.
- Prosecution
- Police dockets – what is in a docket? Limitations of dockets

CHAPTER 3 – The South African Police Service and the communities they police
- The South African Police
- The study ‘communities’
- Western Cape – Ocean View police jurisdiction; Simon’s Town police
jurisdiction; Muizenberg police jurisdiction; Fish Hoek police jurisdiction
- KwaZulu-Natal – Greytown police jurisdiction; Weenen police jurisdiction;
Tugela Ferry / Msinga police jurisdiction; Muden police jurisdiction

CHAPTER 4 – A sketch of the cases
- The complainant: age; employment status; relationship of
the complainant to the accused
- The perpetrator: age of the accused; employment status of the accused;
prior charges
- Nature of the offence: number of perpetrators; weapons; injury; condom use
- Context of the offence: where the offence occurred; day and time; alcohol
and drug use
- The investigation: reporting; first witness report; oversight
- Real rape

CHAPTER 5 – Recalcitrant victims
- Reporting rape: why do complainants report – or not?
- Insights from rape victims
- What do police expect of complainants?
- Victim non-cooperation

CHAPTER 6 – Complainant withdrawals
- The complexities of case withdrawal unpacked
- The regulatory framework
- Do relationships matter?
- Who withdraws complaints?
- Reasons given by complainants for case withdrawals
- Do the police play a role?
- Administrative withdrawals: unfounded; undetected

CHAPTER 7 – False complaints
- Research into false complaints
- Defining false complaints
- Malice and instrumentality: how police perceive false complaints
- Back to the numbers
- Scratching beneath the surface: prior victimisation; third-party
reports; adolescence; mental health problems; sex workers; telling lies

CHAPTER 8 – Refractory systems
- The regulatory framework
- Police work: the basics; victim experiences of reporting; statement-taking;
follow-up and investigation; visiting the crime scene; feedback
- Supervision and case management: detective commanders; prosecutors
- Corruption
- Stereotypes

CHAPTER 9 – Taking responsibility/apportioning blame
- Refractory systems?
- Victim responsibility
- Recalcitrant victims?

ANNEXURE 1 – Examining rape cases

- Negotiating access to data
- Narrowing down the investigation: research period; data collection; collecting rape stories; research sites
- Interviews
- Rape Crisis database
- Analysis


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“Hail the Dark Lioness” – Zanele Muholi’s New Self Portraits Featured in The New York Times

Zanele Muholi: Faces and Phases 2006 - 2014Jenna Wortham of The New York Times visited Zanele Muholi at her apartment in Syracuse, New York, in September, where she was on a residency with the photography collective Light Work.

Muholi, who was born in Umlazi, Durban, was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Prize this year, and had her largest solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, called “Isibonelo/Evidence”. She recently began to refocus her work from observational portraits – mainly of lesbians and transgender men, as collected in Faces and Phases – to self portraits.

In the piece, Muholi explains how both politics and her appearance shaped her life. In her self-­portraits, she alters the contrast so that her complexion appears almost black. The series is titled “Somnyama Ngonyama” – which means “Hail the Dark Lioness”. “She wants to undo the damage of growing up in a society that drew its strength from demonising blackness,” Wortham writes.

Read the article, and click on the link for a slideshow of images:

The process dragged on. Muholi reapplied tape, adjusted lighting, played African gospel songs on her laptop. This elaborate choreography seemed to be a kind of prolonged foreplay, a delaying of the inevitable moment when she would step in front of the camera and stare into its lens. We had spoken the day before, and Muholi had described self-­portraiture as confrontational, an inward examination that could border on violence. It requires dredging up dormant emotions and painful memories and then putting them on display. The lengthy preparation bordered on playful, but Muholi insists that it is not pleasurable, but necessary.

“The whole thing of turning the camera to yourself — it’s really not easy,” she says. “Because you want to tell the truth, but at the same time you have reservations for confronting the self, dealing with you.”

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South Africa’s Freedom Charter and its Legacy – John Saul Takes a Closer Look

A Flawed FreedomJohn Saul, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at York University and author of A Flawed Freedom: Rethinking Southern African Liberation, recently presented a seminar at the University of Johannesburg.

In the seminar, which was called “South Africa’s Freedom Charter and its legacy”, Saul reflected on the effects of anti-colonial movements and postcolonial reality, and their impact on the future.

Saul begins with a close look at the Freedom Charter, situating it in the context of African thought about this continent. He links this with a discussion of Steve Biko and Black Consciousness, and considers where South Africa is going from this point.

Read the seminar paper, shared by Global Research:

It is true that I’m from Canada and only arrived in Africa, in Tanzania to be specific, in 1965 at the age of 27; nonetheless, it was in Africa that I grew up, at least politically; not, initially, in South Africa but in Tanzania where I taught for many years and in working with Mozambique’s FRELIMO in exile in DSM; in visiting the liberated areas of a new Mozambique in Tete Province in 1972; and, later, in teaching in a liberated Mozambique at the Universidade de Eduardo Mondlane.

Of course I visited South Africa throughout these years too, even once, in the 1980s, doing so illegally (having been refused a visa), I’ve had books banned by the apartheid government, and I’ve taught here in Jo’burg, just down the road at Wits at the turn of the present century. But, in the 1960s and the 1970s, my “African education” began not with the Freedom Charter but with Fanon, Cabral and Nyerere. We were aware of what the Freedom Charter had to say in 1955 needless to say and honoured it. But in Dar es Salaam we were beginning to judge movements throughout the continent not by what they said in the heat of struggle but by what they actually did once they were in power. And we were looking for voices – Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral and Julius Nyerere were three such voices – within the camp of liberation that could instruct us.

Let me also make a further specific introductory point if I may. Let me, in fact, pick up from where I left off my brief appearance at the South Africa Book Fair last weekend and, assuming that there’s not too much overlap of audience, even use the same entry point. It seems appropriate to do so in part because I have been instructed by my old friend David Moore to change my topic from the one I had proposed (that being entitled “The Struggle for Southern African Liberation: Success or Failure”) to “South Africa’s Freedom Charter and its legacy: reflections on anti-colonial programmes, post-colonial practices, and possibilities for the future” – in order to fit in with the broader topic of the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter already established as to the overall theme of the seminar series of which my presentation now makes a contribution.

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Falling Cost of Tik to Blame for Growth in Drug-related Crime

Substance Use and Abuse in South AfricaThe Western Cape was reported as the area with the highest number of drug-related crimes in South Africa in the recently released national crime statistics.

According to the report, there has been a 3.9 percent increase in drug-related crimes in the province – from 85,437 to 88,731 cases.

Simon Howell of the University of Cape Town’s Centre of Criminology says the falling cost of Tik and other drugs could be one of the reasons. Additionally, drug-related arrests have risen 161 percent over the past 10 years.

This could mean either an increase in policing or an increase in the number of drug users.

“We can work backwards by looking at the market fluctuation and the price of drugs – the supply and demand. What we have found in the Western Cape is that the price of Tik has decreased over the past 10 years by 183.7% and heroin has decreased by 183.72%,” said Howell.

Because drugs are more affordable and used by more, it lead to more drug-related arrests.

National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, who released the report at Parliament, says police have in fact dismantled 57 drug laboratories in the past year.

[Phiyega] says there’s a need for more crime prevention and awareness among the youth.

“If you look at cannabis and you look at wunga or nyaope, you start to realise that local use is drugs is growing and it is a complex area to police.”

For an in-depth study of substance abuse in South Africa see Substance Use and Abuse in South Africa: Insights from Brain and Behavioural Sciences:

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A New Taxi Rank for Lwandle, with Better Facilities, Sustainable Energy and Plans to Go Entirely Off the Grid

Hostels, Homes, MuseumThe taxi rank at Lwandle has recently undergone a serious revamp in order to accommodate taxis and commuters better, and eventually generate enough solar electricity to go off the grid.

Lwandle is a town built on refurbished mine hostels. As part of the “Hostels to Homes” scheme that happened after the end of apartheid, the migrant lodging was reconfigured to be suitable for families. Hostels, Homes, Museum: Memorialising migrant labour pasts in Lwandle, South Africa by Noëleen Murray and Leslie Witz tells the story of the transformation.

The improved taxi rank is another step in making the town more suitable and accommodating for its residents.

Liesl Frankson wrote an article about the changes for Infrastructure News:

The City of Cape Town has transformed an informal taxi rank opposite the Nomzamo Community Hall in Lwandle into a sustainable public transport facility with solar panels on the roof, washing facilities for minibus-taxis, kiosks for informal traders, and bathroom facilities for commuters.

Previously, minibus-taxis at the rank operated from a potholed asphalt surface with inadequate food and seating facilities, no bathrooms and very little shelter against the elements.

Book details

  • Hostels, Homes, Museum: Memorialising migrant labour pasts in Lwandle, South Africa by Noëleen Murray and Leslie Witz
    EAN: 9781775820772
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

How Philile Mbatha’s Masters Research Became Part of Sharing Benefits from the Coast

Sharing Benefits from the CoastPhilile Mbatha, one of the contributors to Sharing Benefits from the Coast: Rights, Resource and Livelihoods edited by Rachel Wynberg and Maria Hauck, was recently interviewed by FunDza about her work.

Mbatha grew up in Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal. She has earned bachelor’s, honours and master’s degrees by focusing on her passion and taking full advantage of the opportunities presented to her. She is currently completing her doctorate in Environmental Science at UCT.

The journey was not always clear or easy. Mbatha knew that she wanted to help people, and she knew that she wanted to study geography and environmental management. But it was not clear how these ambitions could come together until she began working on her master’s research.

Read the article:

“The Masters project I was going to be part of was exactly something that I’d be interested in … it just spoke to me.” Her dissertation, entitled Sharing benefits from coastal resources with rural communities in South Africa: The influence of institutional arrangements, indeed blended her love of environmental science with her desire to help people. Her case studies were among people of the fisheries and mining sectors in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Philile says she finally understood her purpose in life, and her passion helped her duck even when life threw stones at her. “I went from an Eskom scholarship to a scholarship that was half of that. But my passion pulled me through.”

Sure enough, Philile passed her Masters with a distinction.

“Then I thought, ‘Yes! I’m finally going to work for Eskom,’ but my UCT supervisor said they’d hire me here as a researcher.”

Philile says part of the reason she stayed was that the people who funded her Masters project were so impressed that they asked her and her supervisors to convert her Masters project into a book, which was published by UCT Press in 2014. The book is entitled “Sharing benefits from the Coast: Rights, Resources and livelihoods (and is edited by her supervisors).

Book details

  • Sharing Benefits from the Coast: Rights, Resource and Livelihoods edited by Rachel Wynberg and Maria Hauck
    EAN: 9781775820062
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

The Victoria Mxenge Housing Project: Women Empowered to Build Their Own Houses

The Victoria Mxenge Housing ProjectIn a recent article for the Mail & Guardian, shared by Press Reader, Jane English wrote about women in construction.

As women have always played a big role in home and community building, English writes, it makes sense that they are entering the realms of physically constructing homes.

English some of the ways and places that women are beginning to make their presence felt in the construction industry. She cites the work of the Victoria Mxenge Housing Project as an example of this.

Read the article:

Contained in these comments is the key: women are core players in strong communities. Women bring these community elements onto sites and enable a supportive environment to develop. An illustration of women being empowered to build their own houses and manage the finance therof is the Victoria Mzenge Housing Project. A group of poor, rural women came to Cape Town seeking work and became a movement that self-built more than 5 000 houses. They accessed housing subsidies, created a joint housing savings scheme and maintained detailed records. An architect guided them with the design and costing, as most of them had little education. Salma Ismail’s book The Victoria Mxenge Housing Project on the association is inspiring reading.

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What Will Cape Town Look Like in 2050? Edgar Pieterse and 17 Others Offer Their Vision of the City’s Future

Africa's Urban RevolutionEdgar Pieterse, co-editor of Africa’s Urban Revolution and director at the African Centre for Cities, was recently asked to share his vision for Cape Town.

Pieterse was one of 18 Cape Town locals who told Cape Town Partnership what they thought the city would be like at the halfway mark to the next century. Respondents included author and academic Njabulo Ndebele, Councillor Garreth Bloor, businesspeople, children and advocates for change.

Scholar of urban development, Pieterse predicts that “radical urban transformation became Cape Town’s competitive and comparative advantage in a world bereft of vision and care”.

Read more:

In 2050 Cape Town will be known as the mongrel city of the future. It will be the Mecca of animated dialogue, learning and experimentation for urbanists everywhere trying to figure out the equation to simultaneously achieve social justice, environmental care, productive lives, and an endless capacity for wonder and fun.

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Popular Misconceptions About Fire in Cape Town (Excerpt from Burning Table Mountain)

Burning Table MountainIn Burning Table Mountain: An Environmental History of Fire on the Cape Peninsula, Simon Pooley outlines the disjunctures between everyday perceptions, scientific understanding, and policy and management of fires in Cape Town.

Pooley recently shared the introduction to his book on Academia. In the excerpt, Pooley outlines the fire events and public reactions that inspired him to write about how Table Mountain is managed, and the larger implications of this.

Read the excerpt:

The Spark

In January 2000, two wildfires swept through the Cape Peninsula’s UNESCO World Heritage Site for Nature, the Table Mountain National Park, burning down houses and destroying property on the wildland-urban interface of South Africa’s parliamentary capital. There were more than 120 fires in the region on that one ‘fire-storm Sunday’. These fires made a big impact regionally, nationally and (briefly) internationally, assisted by media images of flames and smoke racing over the Peninsula’s iconic Table Mountain chain and threatening homes on the slopes below. A book was published on ‘The Great Fire of January 2000′, with all proceeds going to the Santam/Cape Argus Ukuvuka: Operation Firestop campaign’, an initiative supported by local communities, conservation organisations, NGOs, local authorities and the private sector. The Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, African National Congress (ANC) struggle hero Ronnie Kasrils, commissioned an inquiry which was subtitled ‘towards improved veld fire management in South Africa’. Following a decade of political turmoil and environmental management neglect, the fires were seen as an environmental wake-up call not just for the Peninsula, but for the country as a whole.

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World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day: South Africa Reported to Have Highest Incidence in the World

Substance Use and Abuse in South AfricaOn the eve of World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day, the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children emphasised that the condition is a “perfectly preventable disability”.

FAS is “100 percent avoidable‚” the Saartjie Baartman Centre’s Dorothea Gertse says, “so much so‚ that it could be one of the major health problems permanently removed from our country’s health risk concerns”.

The Cape Town centre said in a statement that World FAS Day is commemorated each year 9:09 AM “on the ninth day of the ninth month to draw attention to the fact that women should not drink alcohol while pregnant”.

South Africa is reported to have the highest reported incidence in the world with an estimated 25 000 babies born with FAS every year.

“FAS is the main cause of severe mental disabilities and stunted physical growth in babies‚” the centre said.

“In some areas within South Africa‚ FAS has been reported to be as high as 12.2 percent‚ in comparison to other countries‚ prevalence of FAS varies from 0.1 percent to 0.8 percent.”

“Initiatives like World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day are vital in the fight against FAS‚ which is found in all races and across all socio-economic groups‚” said Gertse.

“Continuous intervention‚ education and counselling is required. We often treat pregnant women with alcohol and drug dependence issues. By the time they reach us for help‚ they are so downtrodden and desperate to escape their reality that the safety of their unborn child is not a priority,”

But‚ “being aware of FAS is not enough,” Gertse said‚ and “drastic steps need to be taken to curb and erode this perfectly preventable disability”.

Source: RDM News Wire

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