Witness Protection Programmes: The Role of Social Workers in Helping State Witnesses to Deal with Challenges





witness protection programme, witness, social work intervention, social worker, support services, experiences and challenges


Admission of witnesses to the witness protection programme is necessary to protect their lives to ensure successful prosecutions. However, it poses serious challenges that result in the interruption of the functioning of a family such as social uprooting and isolation. There seems to be a shortage of literature on the protection of witnesses that focuses on their challenges and the support interventions they require to be able to adjust and cope in the programme. A qualitative research approach was followed to gain an in-depth understanding of the experiences of witnesses and the role of social workers in the South African witness protection programme. Non-probability, purposive sampling was used to select 30 participants, including witnesses, social workers and others. The findings describe the participants’ lack of knowledge and awareness of the existence of the witness protection programme, their experiences of trauma, and their difficulties to access social work services. The findings also describe the shortage of social workers to provide support and the unsatisfactory reintegration and aftercare services. This article facilitates insight into the world of witnesses who live in the witness protection programme. It highlights the essential role that social workers can play to help them work through existing trauma, adjust and cope in the programme, and reintegrate into the community.


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How to Cite

Mphaphuli, Lucy, and Petro Botha. 2022. “Witness Protection Programmes: The Role of Social Workers in Helping State Witnesses to Deal With Challenges”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 34 (2):19 pages. https://doi.org/10.25159/2708-9355/9493.



Received 2021-05-15
Accepted 2021-09-17
Published 2022-08-25