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Protection From Harassment in South Africa

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Protection From Harassment in South Africa

Protection From Harassment in South Africa

The South African government has used many methods throughout the years to defend the rights of the vulnerable population from acts of violence, intimidation, and harassment.

One unique method is the implementation of the Protection from Harassment Act.

Protection From Harassment in South Africa

The primary purpose of the Protection from Harassment Act is to provide victims of suspected harassment with an efficient solution. In general, it entails creating procedures for the timely issuance of Protection Orders to victims of harassment.

Introduction to the Protection from Harassment Act

The recent enactment of the Protection from Harassment Act went into effect on 27th April 2013. It paves the way for a reduction in the number of incidents of harassment in the country.

What is Harassment?

In the Protection from Harassment Act (No. 17 of 2011), harassment is any abusive, extreme, or rude behaviour that harms another individual or makes another person believe that he or she will suffer.

Generally, it can include physical, emotional, financial, or psychological harm.

Harassment may be defined as any behaviour that includes observing, following, chasing, or accosting the complainant (person reporting harassment) or someone close to them, such as a spouse or family member.

It may also involve behaviours by the responder (the person harassing another), such as lurking near or outside the complainant’s home or office.

It also covers contact via written, verbal, and technological means of communication that might cause injury or make the complainant feel threatened in any manner.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

The Protection covers sexual harassment from Harassment Act. In general, it’s a sort of harassment that involves any unwanted sexual attention from a person who knows or should know that such attention is unwanted.

In most circumstances, sexual attention involves unwanted sexual ideas, behaviour, words, or signals that a person finds offensive, embarrassing, or intimidating.

Furthermore, sexual harassment involves making a promise, rewarding someone for completing a sexual request, or punishing someone for refusing one.

What Can A Person Do If Being Harassed?

When a person believes someone is harassing them, the appropriate course of action is to file an application for a protection order in the Magistrate’s Court.

If the complainant is a minor, they may seek a protection order without the aid of his or her parents or guardians.

In cases when the complainant is unwilling to seek a protection order, a person may apply on the complainant’s behalf. In general, anybody with a vested interest in the complainant’s safety and well-being may file an application.

If the complainant is over the age of 18, you must get written permission to apply on their behalf.

Remember that the complainant doesn’t need to have a connection with the responder. Simply put, the respondent might be anyone, such as a friend, stranger, neighbour, or co-worker.

What Happens When Harassment Occurs in The Workplace?

Sexual harassment in the workplace has become more common over the years. In most circumstances, unwanted sexual gestures may be deemed sexual harassment, and the complainant should notify the employer as soon as possible.

When a complaint falls on deaf ears or the employer dismisses it as minor and fails to take prompt measures to prevent sexual harassment from worsening, the employer will be held accountable for damages.

Furthermore, the employer’s failure to aid the complainant may result in a claim for constructive dismissal.

Remember that sexual harassment is a kind of misconduct, which implies that the employer must take disciplinary action against the respondent, which may end in his or her termination.

Who Can Apply For A Harassment Order?

Any individual who’s harassed may petition to a Magistrate’s Court for the issuing of a Protection Order against the harasser under Section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act.

The application for the Protection Order can be made by the complainant or by another individual acting on their behalf with a written agreement.

The act allows the Court to decide whether to impose a Protection Order to forego obtaining written permission if the complainant cannot submit one.

If the case concerns a minor under 18 or an adult acting on behalf of a minor, they may also seek a protection order.

In general, parental help or consent would no longer be required for the child or the individual aiding the child to submit the application.

When a person doesn’t know who’s harassing them, the police may be called in to investigate the identity, address, or any other information about the unknown respondent.

In one case, if the complainant thinks that the respondent is present at work, the police will request that the complainant’s employer provide access to information on the suspected respondent.

When a person fails to present the authorities with the desired information, they are guilty of a criminal offense and might face a fine or six months in prison.

South African flag waving in the wind in front of a South African Police flag

South African flag waving in the wind in front of a South African Police flag

Where To Apply For A Harassment Order?

The complainant may apply for such an order with the Clerk of the Court in the area where the harassment occurred or where the complainant resides.

The Clerk will assist the complainant in completing the application for the Protection Order, which will be submitted to the Court for consideration.

In addition, if trespassing or violence happens, the complainant may file a criminal charge against the respondent at the police station.

When To Apply For An Harassment Order?

It’s typically sufficient to apply for an Harassment Order if a person is subjected to abuse. The complainant must demonstrate a pattern of abuse, including physical, financial, psychological, or emotional harassment.

What Are Interim Protection Orders?

When a complainant decides to make an application, they must fill out a standard form containing any supporting affidavits from others who know the problem.

The Clerk of the Court will submit the application and affidavits to the Court for consideration after the applicant completes the standard application form.

In general, the Court will award an Interim (temporary) Protection Order against the respondent in the absence of their knowledge if the Court is convinced that the following conditions exist:

  • Prima facie evidence which shows the respondent is engaging or has engaged in any act of harassment
  • Harm is being or may be suffered by the complainant or related individual because of the conduct if a protection order isn’t issued right away
  • The Protection that would be given to the complainant via the issuance of the Interim Protection Order wouldn’t be achieved if the respondent was notified of the application

After the Interim Protection Order is issued, a copy should be served on the respondent, who should be given a date to appear in Court to argue why the Interim Protection Order shouldn’t be made a Final Order.

If the Court determines that the application doesn’t necessitate issuing an urgent Interim Protection Order against the respondent, certified copies of the complainant’s affidavit will be served on the respondent.

Both the complainant and the respondent will be summoned to Court on a certain day to discuss the matter.

Issuing Of Permanent Orders

In circumstances where the Court issued an Interim Protection Order, a return date will be set to consider whether the Interim Order should be made permanent or final.

Suppose the respondent appears on the return date and objects to a Final Protection Order issuance. In that case, the Court will hear the case, considering all evidence, including affidavits, expert feedback, and oral testimony.

The Court will assess whether the action was unreasonable when making its decision. In general, the Court will decide whether the respondent’s actions were to identify or prevent an offense, fulfill a legal obligation, or uncover potential harm to public safety.

The Court has broad authority to issue Protection Orders under the Protection from Harassment Act. In most circumstances, this entails giving an order prohibiting the respondent from doing the following:

  • Engaging in or trying to engage in harassment and bullying toward the complainant
  • Enlist the assistance of another person to commit an act of harassment against the complainant
  • Committing any other act as indicated in the Protection Order

Furthermore, the Court may impose further limitations on the respondent if it deems it essential to preserve the complainant’s safety and well-being. In most situations, it entails the right to issue an order directing a South African Police Service member to seize any firearm in the respondent’s possession.

How Long Does A Final Protection Order Last?

Generally, a Final Protection Order issued by a court under the act will be valid for five years or longer if required.

It should be noted that if the responder violates the Protection Order, it must be reported immediately to the authorities, along with a copy of it.

This will ensure that the respondent is arrested and taken to Court. Remember that only the Magistrate may order the arrestee’s release as the Magistrate issues the warrant.

Final Thoughts on Protection From Harassment South Africa

Harassment is becoming prevalent in recent years and can negatively affect many individuals’ lives. If you’re the target of harassment or know someone going through a harrowing ordeal, it’s time to act and get it stopped.  

Knowing about the Protection from Harassment Act, its provisions, and the necessary steps to take to protect yourself from harassment will help you get through the ordeal.

Remember that timely action is the key when dealing with harassment.


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How To Obtain a Protection Order (Explained)

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