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South Africa’s Outrage as Justice System Fails GBV Victims with Jaco Swart Sentence

A video has been going viral on Twitter for the past 48 hours, showing a man – named as Jaco Swart – abusing his now estranged wife, Nicoleen Swart. The vicious way in which he kicks, punches and slaps her is horrific.

It hurts to watch.

Imagine how the staff felt witnessing this at work. Or how their young children felt (as shown in some photos we have not published here). Imagine how it felt for Nicoleen. Physically and emotionally. And how it feels for so many women like Nicoleen, around South Africa, when the government vows to stop Gender-Based Violence (GBV), yet the court gives the abuser a minor fine, a suspended sentence, and lets him go…

Echoing the sentiments of many, well known author and journalist Max du Preez said: “This is scandalous. This ‘man’ should be in jail.”

There is something to be grateful for though – that this case even made it to court and that Jaco Swart was convicted of assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm.

Last year the matter was actually STRUCK OFF the roll! it was then that Nicoleen and her family approached AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit for help.

On Tuesday, the Pretoria North Regional Court sentenced Swart to a R20,000 fine, as well as a three-year prison sentence, suspended for a period of five years. AfriForum’s unit supported Nicoleen in terms of a watching brief.

After proceedings, Nicoleen said: “While I’m disappointed at the sentence imposed by the court, I am pleased with the guilty verdict. It sends a strong message to women that they must speak out against gender-based violence, and there is always an ear willing to listen.”

Swart pleaded guilty to the two counts after facing an unassailable case, which included surveillance footage of his violent criminal acts. The CCTV footage captured Swart pushing, punching and kicking his wife at their business in 2018. Some of the vicious attacks took place in front of the couple’s two children, says AfriForum.

After the case had been struck off last year and Nicoleen sought their help, renowned Advocate Gerrie Nel and his team made representations to the DPP, indicating they were prepared to institute private prosecution. The DPP subsequently instructed in May 2021 that the accused be summarily prosecuted.

The NPA prosecutor applied to have the surveillance footage admitted for the purposes of aggravation of sentence, but the court disallowed this after the defence questioned its authenticity!

AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit said it had hoped more was done to ensure the footage was admitted to the record, to allow the magistrate to view first-hand Swart’s violent conduct directed at his wife.

“We are confronted by the lip service paid to the fight against gender-based violence by all in the criminal justice system, as well as a lack of commitment and competence to take proper care for the victims of gender-based violence. However, we want to applaud Nicoleen Swart who decided not to remain a victim but to speak out,” says Private Prosecution Head, Adv. Gerrie Nel.

South Africans’ outrage at GBV sentence

South Africans nationwide have welcomed the guilty verdict but are appalled by the sentence.

Another SA citizen said: “The #JacoSwart verdict is unacceptable! You could’ve done more. Gone the extra mile to prove authenticity of the footage. This was a slam dunk. Women deserve better!”

A man who witnessed his own mother suffering at the hands of her partner said: “As a kid I had to defend my mother from a man like #JacoSwart. People who haven’t been through this have no idea what it’s like to be on edge 24/7 in case an abuser is triggered. It smothers your every waking moment. This woman and her kids deserve better, as all women and kids do.”

Someone else tweeted: “I refuse to retweet the videos of the assault by this cowardly excuse of a man on his wife. Our justice system has not only failed this woman, but it has failed all victims of GBV. R20 000! SERIOUSLY!!!!”

Nickolaus Bauer added: “We all have heard of a #JacoSwart. Some know a #JacoSwart. A few of us have even seen a #JacoSwart abusing women or children. Men and women of South Africa… It’s our responsibility. Act or call it out when we hear or see a #JacoSwart! Do not shrug your shoulders & look away!”