Police Minister General Bheki Cele has called on officers to prioritise the safety of women and children as the country gears towards the festive season.
The Minister made the call during the first leg of the Safer Festive Season Inspection Tour in Thohoyandou, Limpopo, on Monday.
The area recorded the second highest number of rape cases in the country between July and September this year.
Cele was accompanied by Deputy Minister Cassel Mathale, National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole, and his management team.
During the visit, they monitored police operations as the province ushers in a season characterised by festivities, entertainment, travelling and shopping.
The Ministry said in the Vhembe District, Cele and the police management interacted with motorists at the multi-agency roadblocks set up to intercept crime on the roads, and also engaged shoppers and holidaymakers at the local malls in Thohoyandou.
Cele said while the high rape statistics were shocking, police in Thohoyandou and around the country must at all times prioritise assisting survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in their time of need. He said they should ensure that perpetrators of these heinous crimes are arrested swiftly.
“I know there are many officers who go beyond the call of duty every day to help GBV victims. However, it is deeply disturbing that some chose to disgrace the service and subject victims to substandard treatment at police stations and in some instances, even turn people away. Yes, many of the rapes are happening in places where police cannot reach, such as private homes.”
He said when victims open cases and turn to police for help, it is the officers’ legal obligation to assist victims with outmost compassion and professionalism, “no matter what”.
“We expect this kind of service in all our police stations and those officers who fail to meet this instruction must be reported and shown the door,” said Cele.
Empowering officers to improve their services to victims and survivors of GBV was also important, he said.
However, some of these crimes can be prevented through police visibility in areas of leisure, since the National Crime Statistics indicates sexual assaults and attacks most likely occur in the vicinity where alcohol is consumed.
The Police Ministry said it is encouraged by the installation of dedicated GBV desks staffed by officers specifically trained to deal with these complaints and cases. GBV desks are already active at some of the identified Top 30 GBV hot spots across the country. The goal is to have one GBV desk at each police station.
The first day of the inspection tour saw the police top brass also visit the Malamulele police station, which was last month attacked and robbed by 10 armed suspects.
The gang made off with high calibre weapons and shotguns, as well as ammunition.
The Minister said it was unacceptable that those responsible were still at large.
“I’m calling on the police to step up their investigations into this robbery and find the stolen weapons before they are used to commit more crime. I have instructed the National and Provincial Commissioners to provide me with daily reports on the progress of the investigation.
“No one can afford to drag their feet on this case. Police must move with speed and make arrests soon,” he said.
The second instalment of the Safer Festive Season Inspection Tour will take place in Mpumalanga on Tuesday. – SAnews.
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