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Tag Archive: lockdown

Lockdown rights enforced for residents of informal settlements in Cape Town

The power of social media is immense. So much more than a mere communication tool, it’s a cornerstone of citizen journalism and can be one of the most effective ways in which ordinary people can tell important stories as they happen. What’s more, content posted on social media can be the grounds for legal action and meaningful change, as a case concerning lockdown rights recently heard at the Western Cape High Court clearly showed.

The naked man

On 1 July 2020, a video of a naked man being dragged out of his shack in an informal settlement in Khayelitsha went viral on social media. The man concerned, Bulelani Qolani, was removed from his home by City of Cape Town officials who were members of the Anti-Land Invasion Unit (ALIU). They destroyed his home shortly afterwards.

The ALIU is a specialised unit tasked with deciding which structures should be demolished on land they claim has been invaded. This work is conducted without a court order and typically refers to homes in informal settlements, which means that it usually affects some of South Africa’s most vulnerable people.

The video caused an outcry. It reminded people of the brutal forced removals that took place during apartheid, and demands for the judicial oversight of evictions and demolitions during the national state of disaster were heard. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), a state institution that is mandated to promote respect for human rights, stepped forward in response.

Together with the Housing Assembly and Bulelani Qolani, the SAHRC brought a case against the City of Cape Town as well as the Minister of Human Settlements, the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the National Commissioner of the South African Police, the Minister of Police and the Western Cape Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS.

Lockdown rights infringed – not an isolated incident

The incident that occurred in Khayelitsha on 1 July wasn’t the only one of its kind. In fact, there were several others that took place during alert levels 3 and 4, despite that fact that evictions were meant to be suspended until the last day of the alert level period.

Some of the demolitions and evictions that occurred were as follows:

  • On 9 to 11 April 2020 in Empolweni Informal Settlement in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, the ALIU demolished structures on land owned by the City. Urgent relief was given by the Western Cape High Court to a number of residents whose structures were demolished. On 17 April, the court granted an interim order, ordering the City to return building materials confiscated from Empolweni and authorising residents to re-erect and occupy structures there for as long as the lockdown continues.
  • On 15 May 2020 in Ocean View, Kommetjie, evictions and demolitions took place on land that is privately owned by the Ocean View Development Trust. The City denied that evictions were conducted at the time, and said that ALIU had acted within its mandate to demolish illegally erected structures provided that they were unoccupied.
  • On 29 June 2020 in Hangberg, Hout Bay, the SAHRC received a complaint alleging that City officials had demolished a structure. The Western Cape High Court declared the City’s conduct unlawful and unconstitutional and emphasised that home demolitions could not be carried out without a court order during alert levels 3 and 4.
  • On 13 July 2020 in Zwelethu, Mfuleni, structures on land owned by the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board in Mfuleni, which joins city-owned land, were demolished. Many of the area’s residents are desperately poor and unemployed and have been the subject of at least seven evictions carried out without a court order.

“Bleeding and in pain”

Of course, there was also the incident that received the most attention – the one that took place in Khayelitsha on 1 July. The official court papers refer to the affidavit that Bulelani Qolani gave, in which he states that while the law enforcement officers were approaching, he went inside his home and prepared to bathe: 

“He stood outside his dwelling naked and asked to be allowed to finish his bath. The law enforcement officers sprayed his neighbour with pepper spray and forcibly gained entry into Mr Qolani’s dwelling, carrying batons and guns. On entering his structure, they were already pushing up the roof to tear it apart. 

“He asked to be shown an eviction order and told them it was illegal to evict during the lockdown period. They ignored his requests, he said, handled him physically and violently, pepper sprayed him and forcefully removed him from his house, whilst still naked and in full view of residents. As Mr Qolani tried to re-enter his house, he states they shoved him to the ground and one official knelt on his back while another held him down to stop him moving.

“Eventually, after quite a struggle, Mr Qolani got back into his house and sat on his bed, his head bleeding and in pain. Whilst he was still inside, he states, the demolition was completed.”

A precedent-setting judgment

On 20 and 21 August 2020, the case between the SAHRC as the first applicant and the City of Cape Town as the first respondent was heard at the Western Cape High Court. And on 25 August 2020, judgment was delivered.

In their judgment, Judges Shehnaz Meer and Rosheni Allie declared that the City of Cape Town ALIU will not be allowed to evict people or demolish occupied or unoccupied structures without a court order while the country remains in a state of national disaster. This landmark ruling is binding in the Western Cape and may set a precedent for other provincial courts too.

What’s more, if any evictions or demolitions are conducted with a court order in place, these must be conducted “in a manner that is lawful and respects and upholds the dignity of the evicted persons”. City officials are expressly prohibited from using force, the judges decreed, and from destroying or confiscating any material on the property concerned.

SAPS members will now have to be present during evictions and demolitions to ensure they are done lawfully, in line with South Africa’s Constitution and “in accordance with the SAPS’ constitutional duty to protect the dignity of the persons evicted”. In addition, the City was interdicted and restrained from considering, adjudicating and awarding any bids or tenders received in response to a tender specifically focused on the demolition of illegal formal and informal structures in Cape Town.

The court ordered the City to return all building material and personal possessions taken by the ALIU since 1 May, and to pay R2,000 to the people identified by the Economic Freedom Fighters.

But there’s more to come. In October, additional hearings will be held to determine whether demolitions or evictions can take place without a court order once the state of national disaster has ended. It’s likely that an important conversation has begun.

Contact us

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a firm of specialist eviction lawyers, based in Cape Town and now operating in Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our eviction attorneys on 086 099 5146 or simon@sdlaw.co.za if you need advice on the eviction process or if you are facing unlawful eviction.

Further reading:

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COVID-19 In South Africa: Socio-Economic Impact Assessment

We have covered the COVID-19 pandemic, as it relates to South Africa and the issues that concern South Africans, since the lockdown was first announced on March 27th. We have reported on gender-based violence, the alcohol ban, evictions, and the overall impact on economic prosperity. This report from UNDP on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 provides a high-level analysis of what we can expect, as we slowly recover.

Reprinted from reliefweb.int, prepared by the United Nations Development Programme – 2020-08-24

socio-economic impact of covid-19 on south africaSouth Africa is the country with the fifth-highest number of cases COVID-19 in the world, and the highest number of cases on the African continent. © UNDP Africa/ Morris Moma

South Africa’s GDP will take at least five years to recover from COVID-19 impact, says UNDP study

Pretoria, 24 August 2020 – South Africa’s overall GDP is expected to decline by at least 5.1 and up to 7.9 percent in 2020 and recover slowly through 2024. This will lead to major setbacks in addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality, according to a new UNDP study on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in South Africa.

The study focuses on how COVID-19 will drive temporary and long-term changes in poverty levels in South Africa. The number of households below the poverty line increases as households fall from the lower middle class. Fifty-four percent of households that have been pushed out of permanent jobs to informal or temporary contracts as a coping mechanism for businesses affected by COVID-19, are likely to fall into poverty after the 6-months stimulus package is over. Thirty-four percent of households are likely to exit the middle class into vulnerability.

“Inequalities within and among nations are being exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19, as the poor and vulnerable are unable to protect themselves,” said UN Resident Coordinator Nardos Bekele-Tomas. “While Government social protection grants tend to target the poorest, this study posits that care and support needs to be provided to those at the borderline of the poverty line, such as the vulnerable middle class, to reduce their likelihood of slipping into poverty.”

Populations hit especially hard are already-impoverished female-headed households, persons with only primary education, persons without social assistance, black populations, and heads of households who have been pushed from permanent to informal employment.

The launch of “The Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of COVID-19 in South Africa” report brought together representatives from government, civil society, private sector and academia. South Africa’s Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Dlamini-Zuma urged that the study should find its way into every district and municipality. She called for a skills revolution complemented by the adoption of a technology strategy and the delivery of a district developing model by promoting gender-responsive budgeting.

The personal testimony of Khumbulile Thabethe, a single parent with three children, was a stark reminder of how the virus impact hits hardest on the most vulnerable ones. “I’ve had to prioritize food over winter clothing for my three kids. Lockdown started in the warmer months and as we moved to the colder months, I could not cope,” she told the audience.

South Africa is the country with the fifth-highest number of cases COVID-19 in the world, and the highest number of cases on the African continent. The study further observes that economic sectors most disadvantaged by the COVID-19 outbreak include textiles, education services, catering and accommodations (including tourism), beverages, tobacco, glass products, and footwear. Small and medium enterprises are most negatively impacted.

Further reading:

Life: Working, pivoting and surviving under lockdown in SA

‘Calamitous’: domestic violence set to soar by 20% during global lockdown

Lockdown is hard on everyone

Women’s Day in a time of COVID-19

Ignoring effects of Covid-19 on women could cost $5tn, warns Melinda Gates

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Evictions in Alert Level 2

What is the state of play regarding evictions?

What does alert level 2 mean for evictions

Hurrah! We made it to Alert Level 2! The drinkers and smokers will be particularly happy, but so will the gym-goers, those with family in another province, everyone who wants to see their friends, and…landlords. Landlords? Not so fast. There is some relaxation of the rules governing the stay of evictions, but humanity and decency are still called for. We look at the Alert Level 2 regulations as they apply to rental housing and eviction.

Can you evict a tenant?

Under Alert Level 3, eviction orders could be applied for and processed but not executed. Whether or not they can be executed now depends on the wording of the order. Some eviction orders were granted in Alert Level 3 with a stay of execution “until the end of Alert Level 3”. These may be executed. But if the wording was such that the order was “stayed until the regulations permit”, it may be necessary to appear in court to enforce the order.

Any eviction granted now, under Alert Level 2, may not be executed until after the national state of disaster has lapsed or has been terminated. The only exception to this is where the court decides it is not just and equitable to suspend the order. This rule extends to the eviction of occupants from and demolition of shacks, following a spate of land invasions and shack demolitions by the City of Cape Town.

Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said, “A person may not be evicted from his or her land or home or have his or her place of residence demolished for the duration of the national state of disaster unless a competent court has granted an order authorising the eviction or demolition.”

Rental arrears

South Africans have suffered considerable economic hardship as a result of the national state of disaster and lockdown, which started in March. Many people have been without income, or on a reduced income, for four months, through no fault of their own. The relief offered by the government assistance scheme, TERS, was subsistence at best. It may have enabled families to put food on the table, but not to pay their rent. Therefore many tenants are now owe rent arrears. Hopefully they are getting back to work under Level 2, but it may take some time to accrue enough income to clear their debts.

Provided the tenant has engaged the landlord in good faith to make arrangements to “cater for the exigences of the disaster”, the courts are very unlikely to grant an eviction order purely on the basis of non-payment of rent.

Furthermore, the regulations have declared unfair the imposition of penalties for late payment where the default had been caused by the lockdown or the state of disaster. At most, landlords may charge interest on late payments.

Ubuntu

The regulations also forbid “any other conduct prejudicing the ongoing occupancy of a place of residence, prejudicing the health of any person or prejudicing the ability of any person to comply with the applicable restrictions on movement that is unreasonable or oppressive having regard to the prevailing circumstances.”

We previously recommended that landlords and tenants alike exercise “commercial ubuntu”, that is, compassion and empathy in the current difficult and unprecedented circumstances. We have urged all parties to keep the lines of communication open and make use of alternative dispute resolution methods, before resorting to the courts. The government’s advice also encourages fairness and equity in dealing with the humanitarian challenges caused the national state of disaster.

Seek advice from a rental housing expert

If, despite the stipulations of the regulations, you have queries or issues regarding tenants or any aspect of rental housing law, or are worried about your current situation, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za. We can provide a consultation over the phone or online if preferred. These are stressful times. Don’t let worries about tenant issues add to your anxiety. We can help.

Further reading:

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Crime stats – what do they mean?

A look at the key messages emerging from this year’s crime statistics

Crime statistics

Crime stats for South Africa were published last week by SAPS. Overall, reported crime decreased slightly, but violent crime, also referred to as contact crime, including murder, continued its upward trend. The statistics cover the period 1 April to 31 March, 2020, and so do not include any possible influence of the lockdown on criminal behaviour, for better or worse. The statistics were released a month early this year, in preparation for a move to quarterly reporting of the figures, first proposed in 2016.

Types of crime

21 categories of crime are included in the statistics. The majority of these (17) are reported by the public. These include home invasions, sexual assault, hijacking, etc. Four categories describe results of police activity, e.g. drunk driving detected via roadblocks. Therefore, an increase in police-reported crime should be viewed as positive, indicating more effective policing. We would hope that a drop in crimes reported by the public would signify a reduction in overall crime, but unfortunately many crimes go unreported, particularly crimes involving intimate partner violence.

Across all categories, contact crimes were up, while other types of crime were down.

SA crime stats for 2020 (1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020)

Category20192020Change
Contact Crimes617 210621 282+0.7%
Contact-related Crimes117 172112 244-4.2%
Property-related Crimes495 161469 224-5.2%
Other Serious Crimes444 447426 589-4.0%
Total public reported1 673 9901 629 319-2.7%
Crime detected as a result of police action339 281290 176-14.5%
Total2 013 2711 919 495-4.7%

What does this mean in real terms?

Breaking these broad categories down, cases of carjacking have increased significantly year on year, with 18,162 cases reported over the period, up 13.3% from last year. In other words, 50 cars are stolen in South Africa every day. It’s reasonable to assume that the reporting rate for car theft is high, so these figures are likely to be accurate.

Burglary or robbery?

The next largest increase related to robberies at non-residential premises – up 3.3%. However, robbery at residential premises was down 5.8% and burglary at residential premises was down 6.7%, good news for all of us who want to feel safe in our own homes. What’s the difference between burglary and robbery? Both involve theft. Burglary involves entering a building illegally with the intention to commit a crime. If you come home to find your window smashed and valuable items missing, you have been burgled. Robbery involves force. If an intruder enters your home while you are there and uses force – or threatens to use force – to steal your valuables, you have been robbed. This is why these two seemingly similar crimes are captured separately in the statistics.

Murder rate still unacceptably high

Murders in South Africa have increased by 1.4%, to 21,325 reported cases. This amounts to 58 people murdered in the country every day, or, for every 100,000 people, 35.8 were murdered. Firearms were the most common weapon used in murder and attempted murder, followed by knives, though knives were used most often in cases of grievous bodily harm. Firearms also dwarf other instruments as the weapon of choice in carjacking and robbery at both non-residential and residential premises.

Sexual offences

Sadly, rape and sexual offences are up year on year by 1.7%, and Gauteng is the province with the highest reported number, followed closely by Kwa-Zulu Natal. Given that many rapes go unreported, an increase in these numbers may point to an increase in reporting rather than an increase in crimes. However, either way, rape is out of control in South Africa and is our national shame. 

The importance of reporting crime

The Chair of the Sea Point (Cape Town) Community Policing Forum (CPF), Heather Tager, has stressed the importance of reporting crime to the police. “As has been stated many times in the past crime stats only relate to the cases that have been opened. That is why residents are often reminded of the importance to do so to ensure that a full picture of crime in the area is recorded.

“Property crime – which tends to be the most significant in our area – has shown a fall overall especially in the area of theft out of motor vehicle – but I fear this is due mainly to non-reporting. 

“…if residents do not report such incidents they will not be reflected officially. As a consequence SAPS at Provincial and National level will have a distorted picture of crime within our community and what resources are needed to address that. I cannot stress too strongly the importance of making sure what is happening here is properly put on record with cases being opened.”

Reporting crime is not just about accurate statistics. Data serves a purpose. One of the measures included in the crime stats is a breakdown of the top 30 SAPS stations where the various categories of crime are reported. This is critical information for decision-makers in determining budgets and allocating resources. We echo Heather Tager’s plea to report any crimes you may unfortunately experience.

If you need to report a crime

Crimes go unreported for many reasons. Victims may not understand the process of reporting a crime, or may not have resources to visit the police station. In the case of rape, many women are scared or traumatised. There is no time limit for reporting a crime. If you have been the victim of assault or other contact crime and are not ready to report it, you can visit your doctor and have the incident documented on your medical records in complete confidence. You can also ask an attorney to log your details – date, time, name of perpetrator, etc. They can photograph any bruising or cuts you may have and date stamp the photos. We at SD Law will provide this service on a pro bono basis and open a file for you to access when you are ready. We will also assist you to report any other type of crime you may have suffered, if you feel unable or unwilling to go to the police on your own. For more information Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in complete confidence.

Further reading:

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Ignoring effects of Covid-19 on women could cost $5tn, warns Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates speaks out about the need for leaders to take into account the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women, as we face the long, slow task of recovery.

Reprinted from the Guardian, by Melinda Gates – 2020-07-15

‘We get recovery if we get equality’ philanthropist argues in new paper urging policymakers to address unpaid labour.

Effects of COVID-19 on women
Guarani women and children in Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil. Gates said inclusion of women from diverse backgrounds is key to fundamental change. Photograph: Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images

The failure of leaders to take into account the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women, and their roles in lessening its harm, will mean a long, slow recovery that could cost the world economy trillions of dollars, Melinda Gates has warned.

Even a four-year delay in programmes that promote gender equality, such as advancing women’s digital and financial inclusion, would wipe a potential $5tn (£4tn) from global GDP by 2030.

“As policymakers work to protect and rebuild economies, their response must account for the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women, and the unique roles women will have to play in mitigating the pandemic’s harm,” Gates said in a paper published on Wednesday.

Globally, a two-hour increase in women’s unpaid care work corresponds with a 10 percentage point decrease in women’s ability to participate in the labour force, she said.

“I think, finally, for the first time, this unpaid labour, which has been one of the biggest cracks in society that no one wants to look at, is in everybody’s face right now.

“World leaders have kids at home right now. World leaders are seeing their wives have to drop out of the workforce or take care of an elderly parent. So I think leaders are waking up to this, and what I think you’re going to see is the coalition of leaders who say: ‘This is how we’re going to get recovery – we’re going to get recovery if we start to get equality,’” she said.

Gates’ paper, published in Foreign Affairs magazine prior to the G20 meetings of finance ministers and central bank governors at the weekend, looks at the toll the pandemic is taking on women and calls on policymakers to “use this emergency as an opportunity to replace old systems with new and better ones”.

As well as addressing unpaid care, Gates called for women’s jobs to be protected, for health systems to be strengthened, and for sexual and reproductive healthcare to be considered an essential service.

Key to any fundamental change, Gates said, will be the inclusion of women from diverse backgrounds in decision-making. Grassroots organisations also have a “fundamental” role to play, she said.

But Gates warned: “We have to keep this on the forefront of the agenda. That’s exactly why I wrote this paper. If we don’t look at the health systems, the economic systems and how we can build back, if we don’t look at the data or the female leadership or use those women’s collectives, we’re not going to build back in a better way. We’re going to have a very, very long slow recovery across the globe.”

Further reading:

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Forget Gareth Cliff, a constitutional law expert shares views on alcohol ban, curfew

Whatever your views on the alcohol ban and curfew, this is the opinion on the potential constitutionality or otherwise of the latest lockdown regulations. It is unfortunate that the irresponsible actions of a minority have deprived the majority of South Africans, who have maturely observed the rules and patiently waited for each small concession, of yet more of our freedom. But we are curious as to whatever happened to the original high court judgment declaring the lockdown regulations unconstitutional.

Reprinted from iol.com, by Sihle Mlambo – 2020-07-14

Alcohol traders remain closed after the government announced on Sunday night that the alcohol ban would be reinstated.     Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)

Alcohol traders remain closed after the government announced on Sunday night that the alcohol ban would be reinstated. Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of an immediate ban on the sale and distribution of alcohol sent social media into a tailspin on Sunday night, with outraged citizens bemoaning that they had not been given notice to stock up ahead of the ban.

In enforcing the ban, Ramaphosa scolded South Africans who have been hosting parties, contravening lockdown regulations and contributing to the spread of the coronavirus which has now killed over 4 100 people and infected over 280 000 people since March.

On Tuesday controversial media personality Gareth Cliff added his voice to the mix, describing government’s decision to ban the sale of alcohol and instituting a curfew between 9pm and 4am as “bullsh**”.

“He goes on TV this president, willy-nilly and makes rules. He sits with his national coronavirus command council and they go ‘ah I think we need to ban alcohol’ and they decide among themselves and that’s it.

“Then he says there is a curfew and you can’t visit your family. Bullsh**. You do not get to decide for free people in a free country whether they can see their mother or father, brother or sister or their children, you don’t get to do that.

“And any government that tries to do that, even if they say it’s for health reasons, it’s a tyrannical state that is trying to control your behaviour,” said Cliff.

We asked constitutional law expert Professor Pierre De Vos to comment on Cliff’s rant, and he declined, describing him as irrelevant and his rant as ridiculous.

Writing on his blog, Constitutionally Speaking, De Vos shared his views on the rationality of the contentious decisions taken by the Ramaphosa administration on Sunday.

He was sharing his opinion based on how he felt the courts would rule on the matters if the ban on the sale of alcohol or the curfew faced a legal challenge.

ALCOHOL

On the alcohol ban, De Vos said based on the rising Covid-19 cases and the increasing number of people being admitted to hospital, it was likely a rational decision in the eyes of the court.

He argued, however, that the decision to stop the sale of alcohol during level 5 of the lockdown – when cases were low – could be invalid and also contributed to the backlash the government was now facing from the public.

“Arguably, the ban on the sale of liquor during level 5 lockdown when confirmed cases were low and hospitals were close to empty, was not necessary to deal with the destructive effects of Covid-19 and may have been invalid.

“The level 5 ban may also have been a strategic mistake as it may have contributed to the public hardening of attitudes towards the lockdown, thus turning a public health emergency into a matter of law and order in the eyes of the public. But given the general deference shown by our courts to lockdown regulations, it is not clear that the courts would have invalidated the ban,” said De Vos.

De Vos said it would be difficult to argue against the alcohol ban.

“It would be difficult to argue that the ban on the sale of liquor is not necessary to deal with the destructive effects of Covid-19.

“The ban is clearly authorised by the Disaster Management Act and as long as it is rationally related to the purpose of the declaration of the disaster, it will be valid. I would be surprised if a court found that there was no rational connection between the ban and the aim of freeing up hospital beds better to deal with the medical consequences of Covid-19,” he said.

CURFEW 

De Vos said due to the dire situation in which the country found itself, it would be difficult to argue against the need for a curfew as it curtailed those who hosted parties from doing so.

“I will assume the purpose of the curfew is to stop socialisation of people at night (as such socialisation will allow the virus to spread faster), and additionally to make it easier for the police to enforce the other lockdown regulations.

“The former is an important and pressing purpose while the latter is not. This must be weighed up against the impact that the imposition of the curfew will have on members of the public. Clearly, a curfew radically curtails an individual’s freedom of movement and would only be justified in extreme cases.

“The state would have to show that other measures that are less invasive of citizen’s rights are not available to achieve the purpose. I am not sure they will be able to do so, but, once again, given the deferential attitude of most courts towards the government imposed lockdown restrictions, I am not as confident as I would normally be that a challenge to the curfew would be successful,” he said.

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Sharp increase in UK child sexual abuse during pandemic

While South Africa and the UK have experienced COVID-19 and lockdown differently, some of the consequences have been as global as the pandemic itself. We may not have the same number of children in care homes, but our children and adolescents face the same risks from online predators. With children spending more time online, and parents also trying to work remotely and therefore not able to provide continuous supervision, online stalkers are having a field day, as this article explains. Make sure you know what your children are doing online. Keep them safe.

Reprinted from the Guardian, by Jess Staufenberg – 2020-07-08

Children’s homes warn of struggle to keep residents safe as more time spent online puts young people at greater risk

online predators are on the increase
Children’s home manager Laverne Cole says some girls thought lockdown was imposed by the home, rather than the government. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

Lockdown was supposed to make us all safer and save lives. But for some vulnerable young people the opposite has been true.

Sajid Javid, the former chancellor, warned last month that isolation was creating a “perfect storm” for child sexual abuse. With most pupils not back at school before September, children are spending more time online, putting them at greater risk of being targeted by strangers through social media, apps and gaming. And, although lockdown is easing, children now face the long summer holidays with few adults outside the family to spot if something is going seriously wrong.

At the moment, data on child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse during lockdown is not yet clear. We know from recent National Crime Agency (NCA) figures that at least 300,000 people in the UK pose a risk of committing physical or online child abuse, more than double the 140,000 reported last year. And NCA figures shared exclusively with the Guardian show that during each of the 13 weeks of lockdown, around 350 cases of online child sexual abuse were passed to police, a 10% increase on the same period last year.

Even then, it may take some time. Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at NSPCC, warns that it may not be until 2021 that we will know the full impact. “What we’re likely to see here is a long tail of disclosures [in autumn].”

Meanwhile, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a charity that reports and removes online child abuse, revealed in May that during lockdown, three major internet companies logged 8.8m hits to child sexual abuse imagery from the UK alone.

Susie Hargreaves, chief executive at the IWF, warns of an “exponential rise in self-generated content, where children on their phones and laptops have clearly been coerced and groomed into sharing graphic sexual images of themselves, without realising these are being recorded and shared”. She adds: “Clearly, the more vulnerable the child is, the more likely they are to be tricked and coerced.”

Perhaps nowhere are vulnerable children more likely to be found in greater numbers than in England and Wales’s 2,360 children homes.

One west London home for girls at risk of sexual exploitation has been pioneering a system to keep its residents safe – although it has found it harder to enforce amid lockdown, particularly as new guidance around “staying alert” has blurred the rules.

On arrival at the home, which is run by the charity St Christopher’s Fellowship, the girls’ phones are removed and they are then returned as a reward for safe behaviour. They also get a fob key to leave the house, which – crucially – can be deactivated by staff.

“It’s about being attentive to their patterns,” explains Laverne Cole, regional manager at St Christopher’s. “They might be unsettled or perhaps they’re still dressed when everyone else is in pyjamas. Their mood dips or they become excitable. We say, ‘We’re worried about your safety, let’s do something inside today’.”

According to Cole, the system, which in 2015 won funding under the Department for Education’s Social Care Innovation Programme, has resulted in far fewer girls going missing, and the DfE’s evaluation of the project notes “a decline in incidents involving actual or potential harm to self or others over the course of the intervention”.

But this model, which rewards good behaviour indoors with the freedom to go outside, has been fundamentally undermined by lockdown. Some girls thought lockdown was imposed by the home, rather than the government, Cole explains.

“We had one young person who found that really hard and went to great lengths to contact the police about her human rights.” The police, she says, helped to “reinforce the message that this isn’t coming from us and we’re not doing anything unlawful”.

The incident shows how children’s homes, which already strike a delicate balance around their residents’ liberty, faced losing young people’s trust when trying to enforce lockdown. It’s a balance set to become even more complicated, as experts warn of a “summer of rave” and parties amid the government’s lack of clarity about when socially starved young people can meet up.

But not all children’s homes were able to keep residents safe inside during the height of the pandemic. At a privately run care home in East Anglia, staff could not prevent a 13- and a 14-year-old girl from being abducted by men in their 20s who had contacted the girls through social media. “Often the girls don’t perceive it as harm,’ says John Anderson, the owner of the children’s home. “The abusers can be seductive and so in a child’s mind it becomes very confusing.”

During lockdown, a taxi appeared outside the home and the girls got in. Anderson immediately confronted the driver. “I asked him not to take them as, legally, it was child abduction, but he didn’t listen. We rang the police and photographed the taxi driver, then followed him.”

The police eventually rescued the girls and arrested the men. The situation sounds chillingly familiar: the 2014 independent inquiry into Rotherham child abuse from 1997 to 2013 noted taxi drivers were a “common thread” across cases.

Ex-chancellor Sajid Javid has launched an inquiry into child sexual abuse and online predators
 Ex-chancellor Sajid Javid, who has launched an inquiry into child sexual abuse and exploitation. Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty Images

A pressing issue is the lack of secure placements, says Anderson. With only 15 secure homes in the country but demand for them rising, open residential homes like his are increasingly being asked to take in young people who need higher staff ratios and more restrictive measures. It’s another pressure on the system that’s been exacerbated by coronavirus, but which will not go away as lockdown begins to ease. Anderson eventually found the highest-risk girl a secure solo placement with a three-to-one staff ratio.

Javid has now launched an inquiry into child sex abuse and exploitation with the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). The first part on organised child sexual exploitation, including gangs and on-street grooming, is expected to be published in the autumn.

Speaking on the phone, he says he is particularly concerned that – as happened in East Anglia – dangerous taxi drivers are still arriving outside children’s homes. It’s “terrible”, he says, adding “there is a case to look at powers for child protection and the police, so that they are able to do more to protect young people when we know they are in harm’s way”.

Javid also believes technology could be used more effectively. “Why is it not the case that [taxi drivers’] movements … are constantly monitored on GPS? So if you drive near a children’s home, that information would be available to law enforcement and others and act as a deterrent.”

In the meantime, children’s home managers would like some recognition that they have been working flat out to keep vulnerable young people safe.

Carol Smith, residential manager of a therapeutic children’s home in north Wales, says “there’s still a stigma” around children’s homes and many staff have felt unrecognised. “There’s been a lot of clapping for nursing homes but I do feel like children’s homes have been sadly missed. We live here, we sleep here. We care about these children like they’re our own children.”

Some names have been changed

Cape Town attorney can help

If you’re worried about cyberbullying, online predators or other risks to your children’s safety online, we can review your situation and arrange a protection order if warranted. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or simon@sdlaw.co.za today for more information or to make an appointment. We now offer online consultations. We’ll call you back and schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing.

Further reading:

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Alcohol not the sole cause of gender-based violence

‘The level of violence against women is beyond just alcohol consumption,’ says Les Da Chef

When lockdown began and the alcohol ban was announced, we expressed reservations. While done with the best of intentions, we were not convinced it would curb the widespread incidence of domestic violence, despite the known links between alcohol and gender-based violence. It gives us no pleasure to be proved right.

Reprinted from TimesLive, by Kyle Zeeman. 2020-06-14

Lesego "Les Da Chef" Semenya has spoken out on femicide in the country.

Lesego “Les Da Chef” Semenya has spoken out on femicide in the country.
Image: Via Lesdachef’s Instagram

Celebrity chef Lesego “Les Da Chef” Semenya has weighed in on gender-based violence in SA, claiming that SA’s issues run deeper than just alcohol consumption.

Gender-based violence and femicide have dominated headlines this week after the deaths of Tshegofatso Pule and Naledi Phangindawo reignited calls for the government to take action.

Tshegofatso was found hanging from a tree in an open veld in Roodepoort on Monday after going missing last week. She was eight months pregnant.

Naledi was attacked while attending a cultural function over the weekend in KwaNonqaba, Mossel Bay.

The murders also sparked a debate on whether alcohol was to blame for the violence.

Lesego took to Twitter to claim that “the level of violence and hatred for women is beyond just alcohol consumption”.

He said that men around the world drink, but they do not murder at the rate SA men do.

“Men all over the world drink alcohol but they don’t go out and kill women on the levels we do in SA. The issue isn’t booze, this thing in SA runs much deeper and needs serious focus and strategy,” he said.

He called for a separate investigations unit to be set up to deal with gender-based violence.

“A separate section on the same level as the Hawks, independent from cops but legally backed by laws and government, solely focused on this issue. Where women will feel safe and know they will be heard. Where whistle-blowers will be listened to. We need proper structures,” he explained.

He also shaded the ministry of women, youth and persons with disabilities, asking what power it had.

We can help

SD Law is an outspoken advocate against gender-based violence and the toxic socialisation of boys in our society. We have helped numerous women escape controlling and abusive relationships. We can help you secure a protection order or escape a narcissistic partner. If you are locked down with an abuser or suffering violence or abuse of any description, even if you’re not ready to go on record, contact us today and we will help get you to safety. As family lawyers, the interests of you and your children are our first priority.

Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in complete confidence. If you can’t get out, or prefer not to, we now offer online consultations. We’ll call you back, to schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing

Further reading:

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Give responsibly – make sure your food parcels reach those in need

Various organisations will make sure your food donation reaches the people in need

As we contend with rising incidence of COVID-19 in South Africa (though still thankfully much lower than our European and North and South American counterparts) and the restrictions of lockdown, World Hunger Day, which took place on 28 May, has passed us by, more or less unnoticed. Yet COVID-19 – or rather, the economic fall-out from lockdown – is causing hunger in South Africa on an unprecedented scale. Many people want to do what they can, despite their own challenges, to help those most in need. How can you give responsibly?

Because we have a history of corruption in this country, it can be tempting to bypass the intermediaries and give food directly to those who need it. Some people are doing just that – cooking and taking hot meals to the homeless. While their intentions are laudable and there is no doubt their hearts are in the right place, we would encourage you rather to contribute to organised efforts and give responsibly.

Why donate through a relief organisation?

Channelling your philanthropic activities through an authorised relief organisation has multiple benefits. Firstly, they are taking proper infection control precautions. This not only protects the recipients; it protects you and your household. Secondly, they are working with community leaders to ensure food is distributed to those truly in need. And they are putting together food parcels designed to give a family not only enough food for a given period, but a sufficiently nutritious and balanced diet. Pap alone may be filling but does not provide adequate nutrients.

Where can you give responsibly?

Many relief organisations are well placed to put together the food parcels, and need funds rather than food. Others welcome groceries and other items. You should be able to find an organisation near you that will welcome the type of help you want to offer. 

Many Woolworth’s stores have set up a facility to allow customers to purchase extra non-perishable goods and place the items in a collection trolley on their way out of the store. This is a particularly nice way to help, if you can’t afford to do much but want to do something. A few tins of beans or carton of UHT milk added to your weekly shop won’t make your grocery bill unmanageable.  

Thanks to Eyewitness News for providing the following information. These organisations connect donors to local food relief groups around the country:

FoodForwardSA
– Area: national
– Donations needed: monetary
– Donate here.

The Angel Network
– Area: national
– Donations needed: monetary
– You can donate via their website.

CoronaCare for South Africa
– Area: national
– Donations needed: monetary
– More info on how to donate here.

Islamic Relief
– Area: national
– Donations needed: monetary
– More info can be found on their website.

Ladles of Love
– Area: Cape Town
– Donations needed: monetary, loaves of peanut butter and jam sandwiches
– More info: You can donate via PayFast or contact them on 076 064 3694.

These organisations are local to the Western Cape:

The Sprightly Seed
– Areas: Lavender Hill, Nyanga East, Mfuleni, Kalkfontein and Mitchell’s Plain
– Distributing food and hygiene packs to 450 families
– Donations needed: monetary
– For more info, go their givengain account.

The Mahabbah Foundation
– Areas: throughout Cape Town where help is needed
– Distributing 2000 loaves of bread with jam daily
– Donations needed: monetary
– More info: 082 468 7484

Ramzi’s Food
– Areas: throughout the Cape Flats and Brooklyn
– Catering company transformed into a community kitchen feeding over 1000 people daily
– Donations needed: monetary and groceries
– More info: 072 387 8622

Noordhoek Group:
– Areas: collecting for Masiphumelele families
– Boiled eggs and sandwiches can be dropped off at The Foodbarn Deli at the Farm Village (Noordhoek) on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The Kensington Neighbourhood Watch
– Areas: Kensington and Factreton
– Distributing food and hygiene packs to households
– Donations needed: monetary, food and sanitary items
– More info: 060 991 1425

Warriors of Hope
– Areas: Bonteheuwel
– Distributing hot food to households
– Donations needed: monetary
– More info, go to their Facebook account.

Restaurant Foliage
– Areas: Franschhoek and surrounds
– Restaurant turned into a community kitchen providing hot meals daily
– Donations needed: monetary and groceries
– More info: You can donate on the Isabelo website.

Nakhlistan
– Areas: throughout Cape Town
– Distributing hot meals daily
– Donations needed: monetary
– Find more info on their Facebook page.

Share your information with us

If you know of other organisations, restaurants or grocery retailers helping to feed the hungry during this period, let us know and we will update this article. Let’s all give responsibly!

Furthermore, with winter upon us in full force, please share any information about where to donate blankets and warm clothing. You can contact Simon at SD Law on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za

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Covid-19 has gifted us a chance to end gender-based violence. We must take it

If the world can unite to beat coronavirus, it should apply the same energy to rooting out abuse

Reprinted from the Guardian 2020-05-30. By Graça Machel.

Millions of women and children are fighting for survival from abusers in the prisons of their homes.
 Millions of women and children are fighting for survival from abusers in the prisons of their homes. Photograph: Patrick Baz/Abaad/AFP via Getty Images

The pandemic is gifting us an unprecedented opportunity to take innovative action and comprehensively confront the scourge of violence against women.

We have a unique window in which, as a human family, we are able to boldly address the social ills Covid-19 is unearthing, and redesign and rebuild our social fabric.

In this process of self-examination, we must work to root out the global epidemic of gender-based violence as aggressively as we are tackling the pandemic itself.

The lockdowns expose what many of us have always known – our most intimate spaces, our homes, are not always safe places. Research by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) predicts that there will be at least 15 million more cases of domestic violence around the world in 2020 for every three months that lockdowns are extended.

A “pandemic within a pandemic” has been exposed and we are confronted with the horrific reality that millions of women and children – in every country – are fighting for their survival not from Covid-19 but from the brutalities of abusers in the prisons of their homes.

Studies indicate domestic violence has increased by upwards of 25% in numerous countries as a result of shelter-in-place measures.

Abuse survivors are facing limited access to protective services during periods of quarantine. It is no secret that pandemic restrictions have negative ramifications for adults and children already living with someone who is abusive or controlling, and access to support services are significantly constrained.

Most unfortunate is while the need for survivor support is increasing, justice is proving hard to access. Resources are being diverted away from judicial systems towards more immediate public health measures. In every country, hotlines, crisis centres, shelters, as well as critical legal aid and social services, are being scaled back due to infection control measures. Many courts have closed their doors.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” the saying goes. And Covid-19 just may be the midwife we need to help birth a flattening of the gender-based violence curve. We have an opportunity here for criminal justice systems to be completely overhauled to fight gender-based violence.

Countries need to fund innovations promoting remote judicial services, invest in specialised protection services, work with the private sector and create more channels for accessing justice, such as by collaborating with community-based paralegals and non-lawyer legal assistance initiatives. The time is ripe to address the lack of sensitivity in police and court proceedings as well as rehabilitative support for offenders and survivors. We need to support justice leaders by creating a virtual forum for ministers to share best practice and highlight urgency.

There are many impressive practical initiatives taking steps to lessen the dangers women face at the hands of their abusers. Countries such as Spain and France have created emergency warning systems in supermarkets and pharmacies to offer counselling and help with reporting. Canada is keeping shelters open and earmarking resources in its relief bill, categorising them as essential services. Out of a necessity for more shelters, 20,000 hotel rooms for survivors will be paid for in France. Police in Odisha, India, have implemented a phone-up programme, where officers check up on women who previously filed reports of domestic violence before the lockdown. These innovative approaches need to go beyond the confines of borders, be adapted for local contexts and replicated at scale globally.

The innovation and resilience of grassroots justice groups continues to give me hope in these dark times. They too are on the frontlines, leading rights awareness campaigns, adapting to deliver legal advice remotely and ensuring disadvantaged groups are not overlooked.

Social media is another powerful weapon at our disposal. Bold advocacy and awareness campaigns should become a common feature on our TV and phone screens.

We have been presented with the opportunity to reimagine and redesign our societies to be safe, vibrant and equitable. We are proving that we can come together as a united human family to holistically tackle Covid-19; let us apply an equally comprehensive, vigorous and unrelenting focus to eradicating gender-based violence as well.

  • Graça Machel is the deputy chair of global human rights organisation The Elders, founder of the Graça Machel Trust, and an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights

Don’t suffer in silence

SD Law is a firm of family lawyers deeply committed to the fight against gender-based / domestic violence. If you are affected by these issues, either directly or indirectly, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za today. We can assist with a protection order and help remove you to a place of safety. We now offer online consultations. We’ll call you back, to schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing.

Important contact numbers:

GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428 / *120*7867# from any cell phone
Persons with disabilities, SMS ‘help’ to 31531
Women Abuse Helpline: 0800 150 150
Childline: 0800 055 555
SAPS Crime Stop: 0860 10111 / SMS Crime Line: 32211
GBVF-related service complaints (SAPS): 0800 333 177/
complaintsnodalpoint@saps.gov.za
National AIDS Helpline: 0800 012 322
National Human Trafficking Helpline: 0800 222 777
Suicide Helpline: 0800 567 567
Coronavirus Hotline: 0800 029 999

Further reading:

‘Calamitous’ domestic violence set to soar by 20% during lockdown

Alcohol fuels gender-based violence

Locked down with an abuser?

 

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