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Meet Pumeza Mafani, National Coordinator for Thuthuzela Care Centre Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit, National Prosecuting Authority. She is also a featured blogger for our participation in the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign that has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women.

South Africa was faced with a growing concern about high rates of sexual violence at the start of the 21st century. Research suggested that the criminal justice system was failing both in adequately protecting the victims of sexual offenses, and in holding perpetrators accountable. This was reflected on one hand, by a high attrition rate at all stages of the criminal justice system and low conviction rates for sexual offences[1]. Survivors of sexual offenses often suffered additional distress due to insensitivity or intrusiveness in service provision or in the conduct of prosecutorial investigations[2].

The Thuthuzela Care Centre, an integrated rape care management centre, was thus created to address these gaps in the system. Thuthuzela is a Xhosa term that means “comfort.” There are currently 52 centres located in priority communities where the incidence of reported rape is particularly high with plans to grow to 80 centres.

The Thuthuzela Care Centre model aims to provide women and children with better, humane treatment by reducing secondary victimization, reducing the time to finalization of a case, and improving the conviction rate.

The Thuthuzela Care centre coordinates the activities of all role-players providing investigative, prosecutorial, medical and psychological services under one roof. Survivors are given access to shelters or other safe places if they are not able to return home after the rape. Access to anti-retrovirals and ongoing HIV counselling is also offered. The centre, through the Victim Assistance Officer (VAO) also provides access to important information (arrests, court dates, bail decisions, etc); assistance in court preparation; and referral to other services that address family violence, drug rehabilitation, and HIV support.

The Thuthuzela Model is only one component an integrated strategy for the management of sexual offences. Other components include:

  • A comprehensive review and reform on all aspects of laws surrounding gender based violence, establishment of an interdepartmental
  • Policy framework for the management of sexual offenses[3]
  • Establishment of specialised Sexual Offences Courts, adopting a victim centred, court directed approach[4]

Although much progress has been made, challenges still remain in the fight against gender based violence. There are limited numbers of trained prosecutors, police, or social workers to cover the case load. There is no overarching policy to hold stakeholders accountable to their commitment. But most importantly, there is a limited budget from the government to sustain the model into the future. 

To learn more about the Thuthuzela Care Centre, please visit our UNICEF, South Africa website. 

[1] Crime Information Analysis Centre (CIAC), Rape and Attempted Rape Statistics, June 2001; Monitor Analysis

[2] South Africa Human Rights Commission, Report on sexual offenses against children:  Does the Criminal Justice System Protect Children? April 2002.

[3] Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, 1998   National Policy Guidelines for Victims of Sexual Offenses.

[4] IDASA, Pilot Assessment: The Sexual Offences Court in Wynberg & Cape Town and related services. 2001