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Zenizole Vena’s tragic story touched the heart of every South African. After the 15-year old bravely escaped the men that had captured and raped her, she was ultimately failed by the public health workers that were meant to help and care for her.
After an investigation requested by the DA, the Health Ombud has come to the same conclusion. The Ombud’s response to the DA stated that “the patient’s social, psychological and physical state were not considered” when the two nurses at the Motherwell Clinic in Gqeberha referred her to the Thuthuzela Centre at the Dora Nginza Hospital via the local police station – where she died.
The Health Ombud further stated, “the conduct of the two professional nurses is condemned; they violated the frameworks and guidelines of professional ethics concerning the management of rape victims. Their inappropriate actions could have subjected the rape victim to risk from the perpetrators she had escaped from.”
Perhaps more despairing than Zenizole’s tragic fate, is that she is one of many. Between July and September this year alone, 10 590 people were raped, 1 895 were sexually assaulted and 989 women were murdered. In that same period, 315 children were killed and 1 670 had been assaulted with grievous bodily harm (GBH). The latest quarterly crime statistics paints a picture of pervasive gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) and a country that have become so desensitised to the continuous violence that our apathy perpetuates it.
And while programmes like the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign are crucial, they cannot make a dent without structural overhaul and political will.
The DA will do an oversight to the Motherwell Clinic in 2023 to ascertain whether the Health Ombuds’ recommendations for training on the management of sexual assault and GBV victims and the BathoPele Change Management and Engagement training have been conducted and to check how the referral pathways in the Nelson Mandela Metro were strengthened. We will also hold the Department of Health and the Clinic to account regarding the disciplinary action against the two nurses as recommended by the Health Ombud and initiated by Labour Relations.
Accountability and education are crucial in the continued war against GBVF. Without it, thousands more women and children will suffer the same horrible fate as Zenizole.
Issued by Michele Clarke MP - DA Shadow Minister of Health