Annual Report: South Africa 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: South Africa 2010

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Refugees and migrants

Violations of the rights to life and physical integrity of refugees and migrants, and attacks on their property, occurred throughout the year. Incidents of violence led to large-scale displacements of non-national communities in De Doorns, Siyathemba/Balfour and Polokwane, along with other serious incidents elsewhere. Somali and Zimbabwean nationals were particularly targeted. The police response to incidents varied from complicity or negligence to, in some cases, a visible effort to prevent violence from escalating. Towards the end of the year the work of civil society and humanitarian organizations was beginning to achieve an improved police emergency response.

President Zuma publicly condemned xenophobia and the destruction of property of foreign nationals. Progress was made in drafting a National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Durable solutions remained difficult to achieve for some displaced refugees, particularly from conflict countries. Incidents of forcible returns continued to occur.

The political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe fuelled the flow of migrants and asylum-seekers into South Africa. In April, the government introduced a 90-day visa-free entry for Zimbabweans and announced plans for immigration permits for Zimbabweans already in the country. The permits had not been implemented by the end of the year. An informal shelter for Zimbabweans in the border town of Musina was abruptly closed in March, with many occupants seeking shelter in Johannesburg, particularly at the Central Methodist Mission (CMC). By the end of the year, several thousand Zimbabweans were still sheltering at the CMC with the authorities failing to meet their humanitarian needs.

  • In July, the police arrested hundreds of mainly Zimbabwean nationals for "loitering" near the CMC. Medical evidence indicated that in some cases the detainees had been beaten, kicked, pepper sprayed and shocked with electric stun guns. Some were verbally abused as makwerekwere (foreigners) by police. All 350 detainees were released uncharged three days later. In October, the CMC and Lawyers for Human Rights sought an order in the High Court declaring the arrests unlawful and prohibiting the further use of the anti-loitering municipal by-law. The case was ongoing at the end of the year.

Violence against women and girls

A new ministry for Women, Youth, Children and People with Disability was announced.

High levels of violence against women and girls continued to be reported, although comparisons with previous years were difficult due to the changed legal framework for recording these crimes. Police figures for the year ending March 2009 indicated a 10.1 per cent increase in sexual offences, including rape, against adults and children, with over 30,000 against women 18 years or older.

In June, the South African Medical Research Council published results of a survey showing that more than two fifths of the men interviewed had been physically violent to an intimate partner.

The ICD reported to Parliament in February that its inspection of 430 police stations showed many were failing to comply with their obligations under the Domestic Violence Act (DVA). There were also a number of substantiated complaints brought against the police, including failing to arrest the perpetrator for non-compliance with a Protection Order, to advise complainants of their options under the DVA and for "chasing away" complainants.

NGOs and support organizations reported that the police had not received adequate or in some cases any training on their obligations under the sexual offences and domestic violence laws. By the end of the year, the authorities had established 17 out of the targeted 50 planned one-stop centres for the provision of treatment, support and access to justice for survivors of gender-based violence. In July, the Minister of Police announced he would review the decision to close the specialized family violence and sexual offences units. Research confirmed that the decision in 2006 to close the units led to a deterioration in services and a reduced rate of arrests and convictions.