• Plants can play a vital role in linking individuals to crime scenes: from the leaves we step on to the pollen that stick to our clothes. If you are curious about the secret language of plants and the link to crime scenes, be sure to read the article about Forensic Botany published in Servamus: September 2020.

  • Forensics is a fascinating science with a variety of subdisciplines that are used to link an individual to a crime scene. In an article published in Servamus: September 2020, we highlight some of the lesser known forensic disciplines.

  • Wildlife crime can be fought by using forensics, such as in poaching incidents where forensics is used to link seized rhino horn or ivory to a crime scene. If you want to read about the development of wildlife forensics, be sure to read the article in Servamus: September 2020.

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Imagine you are sitting behind your desk at work and the bleep of an incoming message on your cellphone draws your attention. The obscene message reads: "Nice top you're wearing, it looks good on you, but it will look better off. And by the way, I like the way your hair looks today." You look around, out of the window and down the corridor, but there is nobody. You get a feeling of sickness in your stomach because you know that it is the same person who SMSed you last night while you were preparing dinner, telling you that you look sexy wearing an apron.

By Kotie Geldenhuys

Stalking is a form of harassment whereby one person continually gives unwanted attention to another person. According to Dr Gérard Labuschagne from L&S Threat Management and the former head of the Investigative Psychology Section (IPS) of the SAPS, stalking is a repeated and persistent attempt to impose unwanted communication and/or contact on another person. This may take the form of phone calls, messages, e-mails or following the victim continuously.

The IPS regard the following behaviour as stalking:

  • a series of actions carried out with some regularity during a certain period;
  • behaviour that is directed towards a specific person or that person's relatives, acquaintances, colleagues or property;
  • characterised by unwanted contact as the victim does not welcome the attention and has made this clear to the perpetrator (verbally, in writing or through body language); and
  • disruptive, as the victim suffers physical and/or mental anguish.

Yet, it is important to note that there is no legal definition for stalking in South Africa as we do not have a crime called stalking. Victims therefore find it difficult to report stalking behaviour to the police as some of them are turned away at Community Service Centres, simply because of the fact that there is no such crime per se. And yet, despite this apparent shortcoming in the law, police regularly receive complaints from people who claim that they are being followed or persistently harassed. However, unless the stalking entails individual actions which are criminal in nature, the police are unable to provide redress. In cases where a docket is opened, it is often closed soon thereafter as investigators are unsure of how to handle stalking cases. In South Africa, little can be done to deter or punish a stalker until he or she actually causes direct harm to an individual or an individual's property. Unfortunately, it is a reality that stalking can lead to a physical attack.

Dr Labuschagne explained that one has to look at the stalker's behaviour to take it further: for example, if he scratches the victim's vehicle with a key, he commits the crime of malicious damage to property and if he physically attacks the victim, the stalker can be charged with assault. When looking at a stalker's behaviour, there will almost always be a criminal act involved. During a talk show on Power FM in 2017, Dr Labuschagne said that the problem one has when there is not a crime with a specific definition, investigators will have different ways to look at the stalker's behaviour. "So, if you look at stalking behaviour on their own, one police station might open a malicious damage of property case while another police station might open a case of crimen injuria for the same stalker. Individually taken, these cases are not typically taken very seriously by the police, as they are individually regarded as minor crimes and seemingly not much to worry about. But if we have a crime called stalking all these cases could be consolidated and considered as a pattern of behaviour."

The closest legal definition is found in the Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011 which came into effect in 2013 and which defines "harassment" as the "directly or indirectly engaging in conduct that the respondent knows or ought to know -

(a) causes harm or inspires the reasonable belief that harm may be caused to the complainant or a related person by unreasonably

(i) following, watching, pursuing or accosting of the complainant or a related person, or loitering outside of or near the building or place where the complainant or a related person resides, works, carries on business, studies or happens to be;

(ii) engaging in verbal, electronic or any other communication aimed at the complainant or a related person, by any means, whether or not conversation ensues; or

(iii) sending, delivering or causing the delivery of letters, telegrams, packages, facsimiles, electronic mail or other objects to the complainant or a related person or leaving them where they will be found by, given to or brought to the attention of, the complainant or a related person; or

(b) amounts to sexual harassment of the complainant or a related person;".

Although we do not have a crime called stalking, it is important for investigators to not ignore stalking as the stalker's actions can escalate into physical harm.

[This is only an excerpt of an article published in Servamus: July 2020. The rest of the article provides feedback with regard to the possible charges against stalkers; the types of stalkers, including female stalkers; the importance of taking stalking seriously and the impact on stalking victims. If you are interested in reading the full article, send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact our office at tel: 012 345 4660/22 to find out what to do. Ed.]

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Servamus - September 2020

When crimes are committed, the first thing criminals want to do is to get rid of the evidence that would link them to that crime.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
When Albert du Preez Myburgh abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered his close friend's eight-year-old daughter in May 1999, he did not realise that bugs would play a role in his conviction and sentence.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
When Sinja Robin Mabitsela and Josias Xaniseka Mkansi (also known as the Alexandra Balaclava serial rapists) started their raping spree, they did not realise that their DNA would be their downfall.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
Imagine how challenging it must be for scientists to identify a victim when only skeleton remains are available… now imagine how much bigger this challenge becomes for forensic anthropologists when only burnt skeleton remains are available and they have to identify these bones.
By Kotie Geldenhuys

Pollex - September 2020

In Servamus: July 2020, Pollex published a legal quiz regarding the current/recent state of disaster. Please refer to that issue for the questions.

Letters - September 2020

The current COVID-19 pandemic which has affected many and claimed the lives of so many, is still continuing to be a global threat for which there is no cure.
Const Kwayo Louw (23), a policeman from Kraaifontein, was recently commended by the Western Cape Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz for his exemplary contribution towards his community in Kraaifontein.
Retired W/O Sham Singh, the first Indian Station Commander of Lenasia, celebrated his 80th birthday on 9 July 2020. A milestone birthday for anyone and it was even posted on Facebook.
September Magazine Cover

Servamus' Mission

Servamus is a community-based safety and security magazine for both members of the community as well as safety and security practitioners with the aim of increasing knowledge and sharing information, dedicated to improving their expertise, professionalism and service delivery standards. It promotes sound crime management practices, freedom of speech, education, training, information sharing and a networking platform.