Three police officers at the Thohoyandou Sexual Offenses unit in Limpopo are facing charges of negligence and defeating the ends of justice over a dumped docket. The 2016 rape case docket was found dumped in the bush at Lwamondo, outside Thohoyandou.

The docket was of a case of the rape of a 17-year-old girl, who had been sexually violated by an intruder at her home in Lwamondo. Her family says since the case was opened more than four years ago, the investigating officer only contacted the girl once.

They say when the docket was discovered in the bush by a passerby, they had to relive her ordeal. The young woman’s mother says they had expected updates during the past four years, but this never happened.

“Since the case was opened in 2016, police investigating officers visited the family only once and never again. It’s only today that I got an update from you and you came here with the docket informing me that it was found dumped in the bush. When we reported the case we had expected that they will give us an update or arrest the suspect. It happened a long time ago and we had already forgotten about it,” says the mother of the victim.

Limpopo MEC for Community Safety Mavhungu Lerule-Ramakhanya has welcomed the suspension of two captains and one constable at the Sexual Offenses Unit in Thohoyandou. She says government will not tolerate incompetence in gender-based violence cases.

“We are continuing with the investigation. We want to say it to the public and also to our own police officers that we are not going to tolerate incompetence and ignorance when it comes to SGB cases. We are going to investigate why the police team that was given the responsibility did not do that. But we are equally going to work with the family to make sure that they get justice,” says the MEC.

Gender activist Riri Sengani of the Riri Sengani Foundation believes the implicated officers must be dismissed as their actions show they are not serious about gender-based violence.

“Only a suspension is not enough. We need an expulsion where those people will not go back to that work environment because they don’t deserve to be there. They don’t deserve to protect victims of gender-based violence, they just don’t belong in the SAPS. So we would want to make sure that we get those people totally removed from law enforcement because that is not where they belong,” she says.

Sengani agrees with the rape survivor’s family that dumping her docket where anyone could see it, is secondary victimisation.

“Throwing out a docket of a gender-based violence victim is secondary victimisation. The victim has already been victimised and then having to make sure that the docked disappear, is secondary victimisation, now we get to understand why victims of rape feel that they don’t have the courage to go and report rape cases. How then do you feel comfortable?”

Over 41 000 rape cases were reported in South Africa in the 2018/2019 period. Thohoyandou reported 297 sexual offenses at the time.