A Cape Town attorney has highlighted the frustrations experienced by women seeking protection orders against domestic violence.

Attorney Michael Dixon reportedly told GroundUp that the courts took five days to issue a protection order for a woman who had already been the victim of two domestic violence incidents. He said his counsel, Advocate Deborah Watson, received a call from the director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children on Friday 19 June, informing her that a survivor had been turned away by the Domestic Violence Court at 11am that day.

The centre requested pro bono assistance in obtaining a protection order for the woman, who had been housed in the shelter for four months in January last year when she tried to escape abuse from her partner.

Dixon said the woman had laid charges with police twice but was told they could not help her unless she obtained a protection order from the court. Dixon found there was no after-hours number accessible for the Cape Town Domestic Violence Court and arranged to consult with Watson the following morning to bring an urgent High Court Application to secure the woman’s safety.

Papers were drafted on Saturday morning and e-mailed by midday at the instruction of the urgent High Court registrar.

Further information was supplied by Dixon at the request of the judge on Saturday evening. Dixon’s clerk, Egran Versveld, then, at the request of the registrar, went to court with the original papers over the weekend. The protection order was only obtained at around lunchtime on 24 June, five days after filing an urgent application at the High Court.

Meanwhile the Public Protector is investigating whether Altecia Kortjie and her seven-year-old daughter Raynecia were turned away from the Bellville Magistrate’s Court days before being found stabbed to death, the GroundUp article notes.

Spokesperson for the Department of Justice & Correctional Services Chrispin Phiri said the Ministry was concerned that there were a number of complaints of this nature at Cape Town courts.

'Our legislative regime makes specific provision for these types of remedies to be obtained from our courts so that women can find refuge from abusers,' said Phiri.

He said it was unacceptable that 'a citizen can be turned away when they seek help in our courts. This becomes even more heightened where one seeks assistance from the courts for matters which relate to gender based violence'.

He said the Ministry had requested the Office of the Public Protector to assist in establishing how pervasive this problem is.

Saartjie Baartman Centre director Bernadine Bachar said the centre was experiencing a 'significant surge' in the number of women seeking assistance at shelters, and access to domestic violence courts continued to be a barrier to access to justice for many survivors of gender based violence.

Full GroundUp report