The SAPS and their response to domestic violence cases

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A group of church women sing during the memorial service of Dr Thandi Ndlovu.

Dr Thandi Ndlovu, who championed the improvement of women, the underprivileged, black South Africans and a deepening of democracy- a highly profiled woman in such magnitude was dismally failed and sent away by South African Police Services staff in Kya Sands when she reported domestic violence which she experienced from her husband.

I am hurt.

How can a country like South Africa which has one of the highest incidences of domestic violence in the world be led by Police officers who are not equipped enough to deal with sensitive and personal reported cases?

The police, being the frontline social institution to deal with incidents of domestic violence, have a vital role in assisting victims of domestic abuse to follow through on their decision to seek recourse for the abuse. They do not only represent state policy but also act as an important link to both the prosecution process and to the provision of services to victims in a community.

And the South African Police Service (SAPS) plays an important role in shaping victims’ initial experiences of reporting crimes. Although for many victims of domestic violence, the police might be a first resort to report domestic violence but it is often the first point of contact when the victim decides to take that first bold step towards seeking redress that always kills confidence of the victims.

And, sadly, we all know that domestic violence is the most common and widespread human rights abuse in South Africa. Every day, women are murdered, physically and sexually assaulted, threatened and humiliated by their partners, within their own homes.

According to a Medical Research Council (MRC) study, a woman in South Africa is more likely to be killed by her intimate partner than by a stranger. The study found that every day four women are killed in South Africa, three of those are killed by their intimate partners and the other by a non-partner.

Yet, when the top businesswoman, Dr Ndlovu consulted Police officers seeking help against domestic abuse, as Khanyi Chaba- a close friend to Dr Ndlovu reveals- she was ignorantly told to go home and fix things with her husband and never received adequate help.

This is a disgrace; I strongly think South African Police Service officers require training on how to treat sensitive cases- they failed not only Dr Thandi Ndlovu but many other women out there.

Dr Thandi Ndlovu’s death is a great loss to the country, women, business world. She proved that a determined black woman can be a genuine entrepreneur globally recognized.

While attending her memorial service on Wednesday morning at Hope Restoration Ministries, my heart was flooded with so much anxiety and pain- I sat there listening and grasping whatever little detail that was shared about her inspiring life.

But when Khanyi Chama who recalled how Dr Thandi spent her final moments of life and the messages she daily shared- my heart sank in and I was brutally heartbroken. Very touching speech. 

Khanyi Chama, who is currently the Head of Responsible Business at Old Mutual Limited (OML) spoke about many things including the night they celebrated Dr Thandi’s appearance as cover story of the August issue of Forbes Africa Magazine. 24 friends, including Dr Ndlovu gathered on the night before she passed on and Khanyi was surprisingly told she is the guest speak of that celebration.

For Khanyi, the conversations she had with Dr Thandi in the past 2 weeks before her death- they all make sense now- and the messages she received from Dr Thandi are all getting clearer.

Dr Thandi celebrated Khanyi’s upcoming birthday prior- by sending her flowers- Khanyi’s birthday is coming in 2 weeks’ time. She confided to her about her being entangled in an abusive marriage with her husband. She was divorcing due to amongst other things, domestic violence.  She wanted Khanyi to share her story of domestic violence to the world. She spoke frequently about how she was at peace with what she had achieved and could not achieve.
She wanted to raise awareness about domestic violence against women.   

I personally think she was a fighter, an angel and a leader even in times of confusion and pain. Dr Thandi joined the African National Congress and its military wing Umkhonto weSizwe at an early age. She later became a senior political commissar responsible for literacy and education and a military commander while exiled.

Upon her return from exile, she ran a private medical practice and delivered medical services to a population of 200,000 people in informal settlements. In 1997, she established Motheo Construction, one of South Africa’s first leading black female-owned construction companies and a leading provider of social housing in the country.

She received various awards in her work in business. She was recognised as a political activist and a champion for women empowerment. She also took on the challenge of summiting the highest peak in Africa, the Mount Kilimanjaro. May Dr Thandi Ndlovu’s beautiful soul rest in peace.

Siwaphiwe Myataza is the founder of Village Girl Creatives, the firm is a community of writers, editors, authors, broadcasters and corporate communicators with wide ranging skills and expertise.