12 December 2018

South Africa: State's 'Fundamental Ineptitude' Behind Acquittal of Child Rape Accused - Rights Group

Photo: SABC Digital News/YouTube
Acting Judge Peet Johnson handing down judgment in the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court.

The "fundamental ineptitude" of personnel involved in the case against a former AB Xuma Primary scholar patrol guard accused of abusing young girls warrants that they be assessed and urgently retrained to "prevent such a miscarriage of justice from happening in future", Women and Men Against Child Abuse said on Wednesday.

This after Johannes Molefe, 58, was acquitted of three counts of rape and 11 of sexual assault in the High Court in Johannesburg sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court.

"It is unforgivable that the victims of childhood sexual abuse have to walk away from court further traumatised by the failure of various state institutions," the organisation said in a statement.

Acting Judge Peet Johnson handed down judgment on Wednesday, commenting that "suspicion that someone has done something [was] not proved beyond a reasonable doubt".

He questioned the police and the State's investigation, which he viewed as "unsatisfactory".

"The acquittal was due to the ineptitude of the State," WMACA said.

A setback for victims of child abuse

"From an initial 83 complaints laid by pupils, 14 criminal charges were subsequently brought against the accused, encompassing 11 counts of sexual assault and three counts of rape. All these charges against the man were dismissed by Judge Johnson, who found that the children's evidence appeared to be contaminated and coached, thereby preventing him from returning a guilty verdict."

It said the children and their families were failed by the gross incompetence of not just one, but various components of the state.

"From the initial handling of the matter by the school and the Gauteng department of education, to the SAPS' (South African Police Service) investigating officers, social workers, interpreters and finally the prosecution. The whole process has been tainted by the blatant mistakes and negligence which led to today's ruling," WMACA said.

The organisation attended the trial to monitor proceedings.

WMACA advocacy team member Ngaa Murombedzi said the verdict was a setback not just for the children and their families, but for other victims of child abuse as well.

"How do we encourage children to come forward when the state cannot provide them with the means to find justice?"

Source: News24

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