By Puleng Maphisa – 10 December 2020
MEC of Community Safety, Faith Mazibuko
The Vaal University of Technology (VUT) launched the first Victim Empowerment Centre, the first of its kind for the country and at an institution of higher learning. The establishment of the Centre was anticipated in 2012/13, and the dream only became a reality in 2020. The Gauteng Department of Community Safety (GDCS) identified VUT as a partner who can assist in realizing the Department’s fight against gender-based violence. The partnership between the GDCS and VUT was formalised through a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Friday, 27th November 2020, at the main residences.
Ms Zaza Raikane, MMC for Social Development and Health in Sedibeng region, delivered an opening prayer during a candlelight ceremony in remembrance of victims of GBV and femicide. She said that the candlelight means the work of the rapist is over and chanted “enough is enough, baleka rapist baleka (run rapist run)” as she concluded her prayer.
Professor Maggi Linington, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching, Learning and Student Support Services welcomed everyone present at the event on behalf of Prof Ihron Rensburg, VUT Administrator and the entire community. She said that as VUT is about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), we agree to deliver the services to the fullest. The Centre has come at the right time for most GBV cases to be attended to. In many cases, the perpetrators are outsiders, and this Centre will help us to work hand in hand to say NO NOT IN MY NAME.
Representatives of student structures, SAPS, VUT officials, and NGO’s were invited to deliver messages of support for the Centre. One of the VUT student and a survivor of GBV welcomed the launch of the facility at the residences. “Today I am proud to say that I am the voice to those who are voiceless, and we welcome this shelter with warm, open hands to help vulnerable students,” said Ms Nomvula Mphuthi, student and an activist with a smile of happiness in her face.
Brigadier Nikiwe Hoaeane, Station Commander of the Vanderbijlpark SAPS said that they fully support the initiative and they are available 24/7. She further mentioned that they have what they call operation ‘O kae Molao’, where they arrest owners of places that sell alcohol illegally, drugs, and anything that is against the law. She added that places that have become hot spots for crime will soon be closed. “Some of the places girls have been raped, as she gave a scenario of an 18 years old girl who was raped by friends of her boyfriend in a men’s toilet by friends in one night, the perpetrator had bought alcohol for her and the boyfriend in exchange for her body,” concluded Brig Hoaeane.
The MEC of Community Safety, Faith Mazibuko, was moved by what the speakers said. She said that this is the first victim-friendly centre to be opened in an institution of higher learning, and it will help students to feel safe and know where to go should they wish to open GBV cases and get psychosocial support. She mentioned that Gauteng had been classified as a hot stop of GBV, and the community must come together and fight this battle, more especially within the Vaal. Furthermore, it is time for the community to say enough is enough and help the criminal justice system to arrest perpetrators. In closing, she reiterated the fact that the Centre is not only for women but also for men who have been abused.
The MEC used the opportunity to mobilise the student community to report all elements of gender-based violence and femicide within the VUT precinct. The Centre is expected to offer support to victims of gender-based violence and provide services such as emotional containment, trauma debriefing and referral to the nearest police station to open a case. Students were encouraged to report cases to the nearest police station, call the GBV Command Centre on 0800 428, Ikhaya Lethemba Victim Empowerment Centre on (011) 240 3600 or SAPS Crime Stop on 0860 10111.