After more than two years, the National Task Team (NTT) to address violence against LGBTI people has finally adopted its ‘terms of reference’.
These terms are aimed at “clarifying the mandate, roles and responsibilities of government departments, chapter nine institutions and civil society organisations forming part of this structure” and should have been in place right from the start of the NTT’s formation.
The news of team’s “steady progress” was announced in a media statement from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, under which the NTT is housed.
The NTT met on 18 and 19 September for a workshop in Pretoria. At the meeting, in addition to adopting the ‘terms of reference’, the NTT also refined and adopted its Draft Work Plan “for immediate implementation”.
The plan includes civil society organisation alliance building, training and development of role players in the criminal justice system, a coordinated response to pending cases in the criminal justice system, and a communication strategy for the task team.
The department said that “some of the activities forming part of these themes are already underway, including the constitution of a rapid response team to address cases of LGBTI-related violence”.
The creation of the “rapid response team”, however, appears to be not so rapid. It was already announced in June and there is still no news on when it will be up-and-running.
Other developments at the workshop included an announcement that the government plans to table hate crime legislation in parliament next year and the forging of a partnership with the National House of Traditional Leaders in the promotion and protection of LGBTI rights.
Deputy Minister of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Andries Nel, welcomed the request from the NTT to include representation from traditional leaders.
He noted that “through capacitating traditional leaders on LGBTI and other critical issues, you are also capacitating millions of people who reside in areas under the jurisdiction of traditional leaders. As statistics demonstrate, over 20 million people in South Africa reside in traditional areas, and these make traditional leadership key and strategic partners”.
The Director-General of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development also attended the workshop and will be chairing the NTT and monitoring its progress on the implementation of its activities.
In May 2011, following outrage over a wave of rapes and murders of lesbian and gay people in South Africa, officials from the department announced the creation of a special task team that was to address homophobic and transphobic violence. It has been criticised for failing to produce any visible results or having any impact on the ongoing attacks against LGBT people to-date.