Hot off the heels of another successful GBV Shelter Indaba, the National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSMSA) is gearing up to make their presence felt at the Presidential Gender-Based Violence Summit. In addition to the resolutions from the Indaba – which calls for a standardised, three-year GBV shelter funding national model and emphasizes the need to work towards the integration of a multisectoral approach between civil society, private sector and government – the NSMSA also seek to pick up several issues it has been highlighting for nearly a decade.

NSMSA’s Shelter Representative in Mpumalanga Fisani Mahlangu says, “I would like to see all sectors of the community working together to reduce GBVF in the country. This commitment will be demonstrated by adequate resource allocation and the availability of stakeholders where needed. Shelters are an essential part of the fight against GBV as they offer places of safety to prevent further harm on victims of GBV. Government must improve on accountability because it is very low, at the moment, and it should also listen to and partner with civil society organizations on the ground to fight GBV”.

The NSMSA had previously tried to engage the President on two key issues. In August 2020, in an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Department of Women and the Department of Social Development the gender justice organisation called on government to urgently address the chronic, debilitating underfunding of shelters for abused women. In its second open letter to the President, the NSMSA calls for the removal of Police Minister Bheki Cele asserting that he “has absolutely failed in his role and must immediately be replaced with someone who is more compassionate and better equipped to deal with the country’s unique and specific policing issues.” No response to either letter was received. And sadly, no South African Police Services (SAPS) officials attended the most recent GBV Shelter Indaba. Nearly seventy-thousand (70 000) have signed the NSMSA’s petition to remove the Police Minister.

Western Cape NSMSA Representative and Shelter Manager Delene Roberts says, “The government does not take ownership and responsibility, I hope that this summit will not just be more empty promises. Instead, what we need is more (and improved) coordination, accountability and collaborations across sectors, departments, and stakeholders in the fight against GBV. The government should effectively diversify the need for sheltering in each province because shelters are a beacon of light for abused women and children. The government should have a multi-level, multi-pronged approach in the fight against GBVF”.

According to the NSMSA, GBV shelters are interventions that have been proven to work, time and time again. However, the organisation says that the lack of funding and inadequate response from SAPS, is often the main obstacle to protecting women in South Africa from domestic and/or intimate partner violence. GBV shelters in the Eastern Cape were particularly hard hit by under-funding issues. This was the catalyst for the first letter to the President.

Gary Koekemoer, Chairperson of BET Sheekom in the Eastern Cape says, “To be honest, my expectations for the GBV Summit are very low because all the government does is talk with very little action. We struggle with funding even though our reports and documentations are submitted on time. There is absolutely no accountability, acceleration or amplification whatsoever. Government must allocate adequate funding to shelters because shelters offer places of safety and play a role in creating awareness and fight against GBV.”

Nadia Munsamy, NSMSA KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Representative and Centre Manager at Sahara Shelter in Phoenix Child Welfare says, “I would like to see more action and less talk from the government. This year’s theme of accountability, acceleration and amplification is 100% appropriate but I hope it will be taken seriously, as GBV is a pandemic. The current statistics on GBV in South Africa make me wonder whether the government is genuinely interested in eradicating violence, abuse and death amongst women and children.  Shelters are an integral part of the fight against GBV as shelters often offer a safe haven for abused women and children. Although it is not publicly acknowledged, shelters do the groundwork in the healing process of survivors. The President and government should ensure that shelters receive adequate funding and support staff because shelter staff play an important and active role in the fight against GBV and should therefore be treated with the same regard as government social development employees.”

Shelter Manager at Time for Change Community Development Barbara Phumza Hill says, “My hope is that the government and the President know what the needs of an abuse survivor are, and that there is accountability and justice on all sides. Shelters offer great support in the fight against GBV and should receive adequate support from the government to ensure that they offer the best possible services to GBV victims and survivors”.

The NSMSA’s National Shelter Helpline helps victims and survivors access all GBV-related services. Call toll-free from a landline or Telkom mobile on 0800 001 005 or dial 112 from a Vodacom or Cell C phone or send a WhatsApp or PleaseCallMe to 082 057 8600.

Issued by Maria Welcome, on behalf of the National Shelter Movement of South Africa