A Soweto family has been subjected to three agonising years of repeated postponements, relating to a rape case. The minor was allegedly violated by her mother’s partner over a period of four years. The case is one of many at the Protea Magistrate’s Court, marred by logistical challenges and continuous delays.
At the tender age of eight she was repeated violated by a perpetrator, someone who was like a father figure to her.
She broke her silence when she was 12-years-old. Her sister expresses her hurt over the abuse of her sibling.
“It hurts me because the perpetrator was living here with my mother. He was our stepfather in all this time, in our own home, he was raping my sister.”
A case was opened in 2016. Months later the docket was allegedly lost forcing the release of the accused on bail. In 2017, a new case was opened. Suffering prolonged psychological stress, the victim has to attend a special needs school.
“Every time we go to court the CCTV cameras are not working. We are told the defense is sick and the case gets postponed. This is affecting and hurting us since it’s been going on since 2016 right up until 2019 – and only last week she testified.”
“I just want this case to end and the perpetrator to be punished. She was like any other child before this incident. Now she’s dyslexic and she has to go to a special school because she unable to cope in a mainstream school.”
Phindi Mjonondwane from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of South Africa says there were various reasons for the postponements.
“It cannot only be attributed to the fact that CCTV cameras at some stage were not functioning, at some stage there was no electricity in Soweto so the court couldn’t proceed. The defence and state asked for postponements.”
Children’s rights groups say there’s seldom swift justice in these cases and many areas, particularly in rural parts of the country, there are no specialised courts.
Dr Shahida Omar from the Teddy Bear Clinic: “Ideally in a perfect world, in the so called republic of sexual abuse, we needed to ensure this case was fast tracked and sent to a specialised court and ensured it was finalised.”
Mjonondwane says there are no specialised sexual offences court in Protea.
“Currently where we stand here in Gauteng, Protea to be exact, they don’t have a specialised sexual offences court they use those courts with CCTV facilities in order to hear cases of rapes of minors.”
With each postponement, justice is delayed. The 15-year-old will be back in court in January, reliving the ordeal she so desperately needs closure from.