18 – 20 Aug 2008, Durban, KZN

picDurban weather was uncharacteristically cold – dark clouds and frosty wind. This is what delegates to the most significant event in 2008, were confronted with as they arrived in Kwa Zulu Natal, on the eve of South Africa’s third conference on Victim Empowerment. Despite logistically challenges, the ten year anniversary conference on Victim empowerment in South Africa was a resounding success. Government departments and civil society organizations came together to network, share information, reflect and debate South Africa’s progress in empowering victims of crime. The conference, made possible by the partnership between the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Department of Social Development, proved beyond doubt, our national determination to make a difference in the lives of victims of crime.

This article briefly captures the Department of Justice (national and provincial) delegation’s reflections on the conference. It concludes by identifying critical issues for implementation of the Victims Charter (Service Charter for Victims of Crime) in light of conference resolutions.

Interestingly, celebrating our success in victim empowerment seemed overlooked throughout the conference. Perhaps this is a reflection of our national psyche and how we view ourselves as South Africans. We are passionate individuals, but we seem to have lost the energy to fight crime and instead, we fight each other – government vs. NGOs or government department vs. government department.

We must acknowledge our challenges, but equally important, we must celebrate our success. A conference that was able to bring together government and civil society organization to discuss victim empowerment is in itself a celebration. Often the trauma we face as individuals working on an emotive issue such as crime and victims rights can reduce us to victims. We become victims, when we face obstacles that impact on service delivery for victims. Often our commitment is tested when we face “red tape” which makes us deal with “cases” and not “people”. We were the silent victims discussing emotive issues, not conscientiously making the connection between “the victim” and ourselves.

pdf Read the full report.