Police and other departments failing GBV victims – Public Protector

The Public Protector, advocate Kholeka Gcaleka released a scathing report on how government departments are failing GBV victims.

Police and other departments failing GBV victims – Public Protector

The Public Protector of South Africa advocate Kholeka Gcaleka says three crucial government departments are failing victims of gender-based violence (GBV). 

The Office of the Public Protector released a report on the investigations into administrative deficiencies relating to the processing of gender-based violence (GBV) related matters within the South African criminal justice system.


In terms of section 182(1)(b) of the Constitution, the Public Protector is empowered to report on any conduct in state affairs that is suspected to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice, and section 8(1) of the Public Protector Act, which provides that the Public Protector may make known the findings, point of view or recommendation of any matter investigated by her.

The investigation emanates from the murders of Altecia Kortje and her seven-year-old daughter in Bellville, Cape Town, in June 2020.

Gcaleka said that John Jeffery, the Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development, also brought the matter to her office.

This was after Kortje was allegedly turned away at the Bellville Magistrate’s Court when she wanted to apply for a protection order. Kortje’s ex-boyfriend subsequently murdered her and her seven-year-old child.

It was alleged that the court officials’ conduct was improper, constituted maladministration, and prejudiced her and her family. However, the investigation found no wrongdoing on their part.


The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development which is responsible for the administration of justice and overseeing the courts when dealing with GBV cases.

During the briefing on the report, the Public Protector said the investigation found that the 38 courts they inspected across the country are not kept in an operational manner that supports efficient service delivery. There are old and dilapidated court buildings with inadequate office equipment such as malfunctioning telephone lines, switchboard and air conditioners, persistent network problems, broken photocopiers, shared computers.

In addition, the courts visited do not have a fully functional Integrated Case Management System (ICMS) resulting in manual capturing of cases. The ICMS is mostly inaccessible or very slow due to network challenges. In turn, the challenges negatively impact efficient and effective service delivery in that court officials are unable to execute their functions in a conducive environment.

The South African Police Service (SAPS), which has the constitutional mandate of preventing, combating and investigating crime and is one of the primary agencies of the state responsible for the protection of the public and especially GBV victims, as first responders.

Gcaleka said some police stations do not have Victim-friendly Rooms (VFRs) and victims of GBV are forced to relate the abuse they have suffered in crowded SAPS stations.

The Department of Social Development (DSD), which has the constitutional mandate to provide appropriate social assistance for those unable to support themselves and to support and collaborate with other state institutions and other stakeholders in supporting victims of GBV.

Gcaleka said GBV Crisis Centres under the Department of Social Development are poorly run and under resourced.

“Within 180 calendar days from the date of the final report and in line with section 41(1)(h)(ii) and (iii) of the Constitution develop and submit to the Public Protector a collaboration plan between SAPS and DSD relating to provision of support services to victims of GBV such as trauma counselling, referral to shelters and health services,” she said.

The Public Protector also confirmed that her office has launched an investigation into systemic administrative deficiencies against the functionaries of Magistrate Courts relating to the handling and processing of applications for child maintenance. The final report is expected to be completed late next year.

The three departments have between three and six months to address the challenges.