Vast majority of KZN’s 24-hour Thuthuzela victim empowerment centres are uncontactable

Issued by Sharon Hoosen, MPL – DA KZN Spokesperson on Community Safety and Liaison
15 Oct 2020 in Press Statements

Despite attempts by KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Community Safety MEC, Bheki Ntuli, to paint a glowing picture of the province’s eight Thuthuzela victim empowerment centres, the vast majority are not available to vulnerable citizens, with calls going unanswered and incorrect contact details posted on the provincial government website.

Earlier today, MEC Ntuli presented a report in the KZN Legislature relating to the plans and progress towards upscaling the network at these and other victim empowerment centres across the province. While the DA welcomes any initiative aimed at supporting our province’s women against the dreadful scourge of gender-based violence (GBV), it is clear that the MEC does not know what is happening on the ground in KZN.

The DA recently conducted its own exercise and contacted seven of the centres to ensure that they are in fact open 24 hours and most importantly that the calls are answered. The following was established;

– If you call the centre in RK Khan hospital, nobody answers the phone

– If you call the centre in Empangeni, it rings and goes to voicemail

– The Pietermaritzburg-based centre has an automated message which says that the subscriber you have dialled is not available right now.

– The number advertised for the iLembe centre does not exist and;

– The phone at the centre based at Mahatma Ghandi Memorial Hospital goes unanswered for hours.

The only centres that were possible to get through to telephonically were the Umlazi and Ugu centres, meaning that at any given time only two are available.

The message is clear – if you are a woman in this province who needs emergency assistance, you should not call a Thuthuzela Care Centre.

This is a shocking situation which the DA expects MEC Ntuli to investigate and rectify without delay. We appeal to him to call these care centres himself and see how many of them he can get through to and to conduct his own oversight inspections of these facilities.

This ANC-led government is well known for drafting plans yet it fails on implementation. The stark reality is these initiatives fail because they are heavily reliant on often poorly trained civil servants to implement them. The DA appeals to the MEC to ensure that these centres are properly monitored, with regular oversights conducted. In the event that there is a failure by officials to carry out their duties in this regard, strong action must be taken. If government fails to do this, then these interventions will remain a plan with no action, like so many other ANC-led initiatives.

There is much more that can and must be done to deal with the horrors of GBV but it has to start with getting the basics right. This includes phones being answered at victim empowerment centres whose very purpose it is to help those in need.