While murder and other serious crimes have decreased since the beginning of the 21-day national lockdown, cases of domestic violence have sharply increased, with activists saying it has reached crisis levels.
In the latest case of gender-based violence and femicide, Telang Bitsoana, 58, of Matatiele shot and killed his mother-in-law Makatleho Mothibe and wounded his wife Thopola Mothibe before turning the gun on himself at Outspan at Sibi administrative area in Matatiele at the weekend.
Thopola, 28, is in a critical condition at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha. Bitsoana died on Friday.
Another woman was shot dead in Willowvale at the weekend. No one has been arrested.
The increase in gender-based violence and femicide cases has been widely condemned by the government and Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi, who was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as an ambassador in the fight against the scourge.
The Mothibe family told DispatchLIVE on Sunday that Bitsoana had attacked his wife on Monday, and that the police had failed to protect Thopola.
Family spokesperson Mahlomola Mothibe said: “He opened fire and damaged our furniture. Nobody was injured. Police promised to visit us on Tuesday. They never came until the Friday night fatal shooting. Had police arrested him on Monday, this could not have happened.”
Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said the shooting came after the couple had a misunderstanding that resulted in a quarrel.
“The woman decided to leave the man since they were not on good speaking terms. It is further alleged that the man decided to follow the woman to her homestead. Upon his arrival where the woman was taking refuge, an argument ensued until the woman’s mother, who was the host, intervened.
“The man allegedly took out his firearm and shot both women. Afterwards he shot and fatally wounded himself. The mother succumbed to her wounds while her daughter was taken to hospital where she was reported to be in a very critical condition,” he said.
Responding to allegations that they failed to respond to Monday’s violence, Kinana said he was unaware of it and promised “we will investigate the claim further, otherwise this is the first time I hear about it”.
Last week alone, at least seven people died after male partners ran amok and injured or killed their loved ones and their families.
On Tuesday, a Seymour man was arrested after he allegedly torched his girlfriend’s house, killing his girlfriend, her mother, two children and a pastor.
Women and children’s rights activists Masimanyane Women’s Rights International’s Dr Lesley-Ann Foster and Khula Community Development Project’s Petrus Majola said there was a noticeable increase in domestic violence since the lockdown started.
Foster, who serves on the presidential gender-based violence steering committee, said it was a major concern.
“We expected this spike to happen. When people are vulnerable as we now are, frustrations can rise and where men are violent the violence intensifies.
“There is an increase of rapes, including in marriages. It is not a new thing that men are violent. We need to have safety plans in place. Women must leave men as soon as violence starts; they must not wait until it is too late,” Foster said.
She said over 8,000 calls had been made to the gender-based violence Duncan Village command centre since the lockdown started.
Majola said: “Some men and women are not used to staying with their spouses for a long period and now they find themselves stuck together and issues of sex demand arise. There are even issues of sexual assault on young children by elderly men.”
Police Minister Bheki Cele on Sunday said there was a general decrease in serious and violent crimes, attributing this to, among other factors, the prohibition of alcohol sale since the lockdown.
Cele will release the 2019/2020 national crime statistics later this year. But, in a preliminary report, analysing the crime and comparing the first week of the lockdown to the same period in 2019, Cele said:
- Murder cases had dropped from 326 to 94;
- Reported rape cases dropped from 699 to 101;
- Cases of assault with intention to inflict grievous bodily harm dropped from 2,673 to 456; and
- Trio crimes (carjackings, house robberies and business robberies) dropped from 8,853 to 2,098.
In relation to gender-based violence, Cele said the number of complaints remained high and was concerning.
“Over 2,300 calls or complaints have been registered since the beginning of the lockdown on 27 March until 31 March and from these, 148 suspects were charged. The figure in relation to calls or complaints between January and March 31 stands at 15,924.
“Once all reports have been consolidated, the figures will be measured against the number of calls/complaints received through the GBV command centre in 2019, where the figure stands at 87,920,” said Cele.
He urged police management to reinforce the family violence, child protection and sexual offences units at police stations.
”GBV remains a scourge across the country,” said Cele.
Police spokesperson Captain Jackson Manatha called on anyone who may have witnessed the shooting of the Willowvale woman to report to the police.
Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said there were fewer trauma cases being treated at hospitals, possibly as a result of the alcohol ban.