President Ramaphosa signs GBV, NPA Bills into law

Friday, May 24, 2024

As the country marks 30 years of democracy, President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned that the aspiration to be a truly free and equal society cannot be achieved as long as criminals steal resources meant to benefit the people and the country’s women and children do not feel safe and free to walk in the streets.

President Ramaphosa said corruption and gender-based violence are two scourges that plague South Africa and corrode the country’s social fabric. 

“Corruption and gender-based violence are affronts to the human dignity that is the inalienable right of every South African. These forms of criminality are holding our country back and preventing us from realising our full potential,” President Ramaphosa said.

He made the remarks at a ceremony to sign into law the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) Bill and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Amendment Bill, held at the Union Buildings on Friday. 

The two signed pieces of legislation will form part of government’s efforts to strengthen institutions, develop partnerships and build state capacity. 

The National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide will coordinate and provide strategic leadership to the fight against GBV and femicide, and be multi-sectoral, drawing on the expertise of all stakeholders, including civil society, labour and business. 

The establishment of the council was one of the resolutions of the first Presidential Summit on GBVF convened in 2018. 

President Ramaphosa said that since the first summit important progress has been made. This includes the development of a National Strategic Plan (NSP) on Gender-Based Violence, and the founding of the Women's Economic Assembly, which aims to integrate women-owned enterprises into industry value chains, promote sustainable economic development, and empower women economically, among other things.

Around R21 billion was dedicated over the medium term to the implementation of the six pillars of the NSP, including the economic empowerment of women. 

“We enacted new laws to strengthen the response of the criminal justice system to gender-based violence. We have worked to improve the support provided to survivors of gender-based violence through the establishment of new Thuthuzela Care Centres, new Sexual Offences Courts, and victim-friendly rooms at nearly all police stations across the country.

“Through these efforts, we have seen improvements in conviction rates and in stricter sentencing. While this progress is welcome, our greatest task is to prevent Gender-Based Violence from being perpetrated in the first place…. we want to end, once and for all, the violence that men perpetrate against women,” President Ramaphosa said.

While acknowledging progress made in implementing the NSP for GBVF, President Ramaphosa emphasised the need for the national response to be more coordinated between the different stakeholders. 

“We need a national effort that is more inclusive, more focused, and better resourced. We are confident that this council will provide much of what we need and will further strengthen the national effort to eradicate violence against women and children,” the President said.

On the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill, President Ramaphosa highlighted that great progress has been made since the establishment of the Investigating Directorate within the NPA in the last five years. 

“It has been five years since we established an Investigating Directorate within the NPA to investigate cases of corruption and other serious crimes arising from the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. These are five years in which great progress has been made.

“To date, the Investigating Directorate has taken 39 state capture and corruption cases to court, involving 212 accused persons and 68 accused entities. In the last five years, the NPA has also secured the conviction of almost 700 government officials for corruption,” President Ramaphosa said.

He noted the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit has restrained and preserved “state capture assets” to the value of more than R14 billion and over R6 billion has been recovered so far.

The signing into law of the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill will establish an Investigating Directorate against corruption as a permanent entity within the NPA.  

The Investigating Directorate against corruption will be a permanent, prosecution-led agency with full criminal investigative powers. 

“This legislation will help to overcome challenges with capacity and expertise within the NPA to investigate and prosecute complex corruption cases. The Investigating Directorate against corruption will be able to recruit and retain specialist skills to deliver on its mandate. 

“Permanent criminal investigators will be appointed, with full police powers. The Investigating Directorate against Corruption will be able to reap the benefits of collaboration with the private sector and other social partners,” President Ramaphosa said. 

He added that efforts are underway as part of the partnership between government and business to create a Digital Evidence Unit specialising in the identification, collection, analysis, and presentation of digital evidence.  

The President called on all stakeholders, including government, business, labour and across civil society to support the effort to make the two new entities a success. –