SA justice system breaks down under rape case load

rape3A commission of inquiry held in the Cape Town black townhsip of Khayelitsha learned yesterday that the South African criminal justice system was no longer able to cope with the number of rapes being committed in the country. As a result, many of the country’s sadistic sexual criminals, often burning or mutilating their victims, were never prosecuted.

“[The number of rapes] can vary… from 50 to 110 cases a month,” Genine Josias, the medical co-ordinator at one of the Thuthuzela care centres in the area, told the commission in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

According to her, a mere seven percent of perpetrators were ever brought to justice.

“I probably testify in less than 10 percent of the cases I see,” she said.

The rremainder of cases were withdrawn by the state or struck off the court roll for technical reasons.

As with many other problems in the country, these are usually solved by giving them fancy-sounding politically correct names. Thus Khayelitsha with its many thousands of rapists had been given a “Family violence, child protection and sexual offences unit (FCS)” but had only five investigating officers trying to solve crimes in the entire black township.

While up to a third of South Africa’s police budget is consumed by its VIP unit either protecting high-powered politicians or escorting them in fleets of German luxury cars on the country’s highways, “lack of capacity” is often cited as an excuse for police failure. Apparently, while the number of rapes in Khayelitsha are soaring, the number of investigating officers for such crimes has even been reduced.

Those few officers still dealing with the outbreak of sadistic violence, were described as “burnt out” due to their huge caseloads. One officer had 180 dossiers or “dockets” for investigation on his desk.Mob justice was taking hold in Khayelitsha, which was one of the motivating factors for setting up the commission. The South African minister of police had been opposed to holding such an inquiry, but eventually the Constitutional Court gave the go-ahead in October 2013.

Genine Josias was asked by one of the presiding commissioners if she had been aware of a January 2011 newspaper headline on the discovery of sexual offences kits on a field in Delft, a coloured township in Cape Town.

“I am painfully aware of that incident,” Josias replied.

The kits contained forensic evidence, including DNA samples collected by the medical unit and handed to an investigating officer. These had subsequently been “lost” in the field. The officer suspected of the misconduct had since dead and probably those cases had never been submitted to court.

According ot the South African news agency Sapa:

“Josias broke down in tears when asked about a serial rapist who was arrested one year after she raised the alarm in 2010. She and her colleagues had examined at least five girls under the age of nine who survived violent rapes.

“Josias suspected they were the victims of a serial rapist as they were so badly hurt that they had to be examined at a hospital under anaesthesia.”

Although police were repeatedly told about the serial rapes taking place in bushes in Endlovini, on the outskirts of the huge black township, there was no reaction.

Mzwandile Petros
Mzwandile Petros

Only when the Western Cape police commissioner Mzwandile Petros was threatened with negative publicity in the media was he prodded into action, dispensing a task force to investigate the issue.

“Many more girls were raped and I just think they could have done something earlier, you know, to prevent that,” a tearful Josias said.

The suspect, thought to be responsible for raping 21 girls, was eventually convicted of 11 such cases on the basis of DNA samples.

“He had no choice but to plead guilty… it didn’t actually go to an open court because the evidence was overwhelming.” But Josias also complained of her hard work coming to naught due to police incompetence and lack of motivation. She also accused the ANC government of “having no idea” of the long-term psychological effects of the country’s rape pandemic.

“It’s not about my hard work. That is my job. We are failing our people. We are failing helpless kids, children that are innocent.”