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On the eve of Women’s Day, a recent success by AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit is yet another reminder of the lip-service the criminal justice system pays to cases involving women, and gender-based-violence. The Unit has committed to helping women who find themselves navigating the criminal justice system, often left to their own devices without support from investigating officers and prosecutors.
The Unit was informed last week that the stepfather of two women, whom he allegedly raped and sexually assaulted over a lengthy period, was arrested.
The woman from Lichtenburg opened the cases in October 2020 but approached the unit over concerns at the lack of progress in the investigation. The only aspect outstanding in the case – after nearly two years – was a warning statement from the suspect. After a letter to the head of detectives in Lichtenburg, the suspect was arrested.
AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit will monitor the case closely to ensure that justice is done.
This is just one development in the many cases involving women that the Unit has taken on. These cases include:
Adv. Mpho Rasivhetshele
Adv. Rasivhetshele was allegedly assaulted by a senior member of the legal fraternity at a social gathering. The National Prosecuting Authority initially declined to prosecute, but reviewed this decision after representations from the Unit. The accused goes on trial on 25 August 2022 in the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court.
Gouws was allegedly raped by Isaac Andile Memese in 2017. The NPA declined to prosecute despite there being ample video evidence of the interaction between the pair in the hours leading up to the alleged offence. The case is being privately prosecuted by Unit head, Adv. Gerrie Nel. Memese brought an application to have the case discharged, but this was dismissed two weeks ago. The trial resumes in December.
Zuma, a dedicated Johannesburg firefighter of more than two decades experience, was assaulted while on duty by colleague Malfas Tshota in 2018. The NPA initially decided not to prosecute, until the Unit’s involvement. Last month Tshota was found guilty of assault and handed a fine of R3000. Despite this, he remains on duty and has never faced internal disciplinary processes for his conduct. The Unit has written to the Joburg Municipality to demand an explanation for the inaction.
Hill was allegedly assaulted by John Schuurman, who also goes by the name Johnny Rockett. She approached the Unit out of concern that her case would not proceed because of Schuurman’s alleged contacts with the police. Since the Unit’s involvement, several other women have come forward to describe alleged assaults at the hands of Schuurman. The Unit will be assisting all the complainants to get justice.
The experiences of AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit suggest that women are not important to the government; instead, the NPA focuses on political point scoring, while both the NPA and the SAPS are motivated by chasing statistics. It is the view of the Private Prosecution Unit that there is also a distinct lack of expertise within the criminal justice system to deal with GBV matters, which are often difficult to prosecute.
The Unit has the following advice to women who are victims of gender-based-violence:
You are entitled to open a case. There are no time limits of when you can open a case.
Complainants are entitled to feedback, and this should be demanded if you don’t get feedback on the development of the case from police or the NPA.
You have in your hands a case docket – your phone. Take pictures, record interactions and conversations, and gather evidence. If you have evidence, email it to friends and family to ensure that in the event the device is damaged, lost or stolen, the evidence is still accessible.
Look out for and assist friends and other women in violent relationships. Quite often, it is friends or other women who refer complainants to the Unit.
Issued by AfriForum