Buildings for GBV shelters have been identified but ‘they are not being actioned’

Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez previously unveiled two new gender-based violence (GBV) safety shelters, that will service rural areas on the West Coast. Picture: Supplied

Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez previously unveiled two new gender-based violence (GBV) safety shelters, that will service rural areas on the West Coast. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 9, 2023


Cape Town - “The buildings have been identified but there hasn’t been adequate movement of really turning more unused state buildings into shelters in the country.”

This is according to Dr Dennis Matotoka from the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) who was briefing the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure on the state of shelters in the country on Tuesday.

Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Nolitha Ntobongwana (Chairperson) said: “For several years, especially the 2018/19 financial years, the commission received several complaints about gender-based violence (GBV), with victims often left without places of protection or shelter. In giving effect to this mandate, the CGE investigated the state of shelters in South Africa.

“We have then invited the commission to hear from it, how is the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) complying with the investigation, and recommendations that the commission made about the properties that may be utilised for centres of protection - our safe homes for GBV victims.”

Matotoka, acting CEO of the CGE, said that the commission's investigation into the state of shelters in South Africa in the 2018/2019 financial year was prompted following the receipt of several complaints from GBV victims.

Matotoka’s presentation touched on the recommendations that were made to the department in building and identifying shelters, and also highlighted that one of the challenges is the dDpartment of Social Development’s (DSD) inaction once the public works and infrastructure department presented them with locations for shelters.

“There are people who have to travel about 300km to get accommodation for shelters. One of the things we said was that there must be an allocation of buildings to shelters, as part of supporting the (existing) shelters in South Africa.

“We were also looking at shelters that cater to the needs of those with disabilities… At times we have direct, but also indirect discrimination, wherein the buildings themselves do not provide reasonable accommodation to persons with disabilities,” Matotoka said.

“For us, it is not just about showing us a building on the fourth floor, or a building, and saying, ‘this is the one that will be allocated to shelters’, you need to go beyond, renovate it in such a way that those that are with disabilities are able to be accommodated there.”

Properties were identified and inspected by the DPWI in KwaZulu-Natal (Richard’s Bay and Port Shepstone), Free State (Kloopfontein and Kroonstad), Mpumalanga (Lothair and Badplaas), Limpopo (Groblersdal, Mablehall and Phalaborwa), Northern Cape (1x Kimberley and 2x Barkly West), North West (Coligny, Schweizer Reneke, Orkney, Stilfontein, Christiana and Fochville), Eastern Cape (Idutywa, Butterworth, Lusikisiki, Mthatha, Styensburg, Gonubie, Mortimer), Western Cape (Lainsburg, Aurora, Aurora Moorreesburg, Heidelberg and Albertinia) and Gauteng (Observatory, Cyrildene, De Wilgers, Mountain View, Waterkloof and Salvakop).

Matotoka stressed that is a collaborative process, because while the DPWI may identify and work on the properties, it is the DSD, as well as the CGE, that needs to come in and say whether the sites are suitable for accommodating GBV survivors, and if not, then the DPWI may be requested to reconsider.

He said that there has been progress in the DPWI’s implementation of the CGE’s recommendations, but that the department must continue actively engaging with other role players to ensure full compliance with the Commission’s recommendations.

“The commitment is there, plans are there, but they are not being actioned. We have various unused buildings that the department itself has identified, but we are not able to move - in terms of renovating those structures - so they can accommodate the survivors of GBV and femicide.”

Cape Argus