No justice for seven-year-old

No justice for seven-year-old

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in Volksrust, a small town in Pixley Ka Seme Municipality in Mpumalanga Province, has campaigned against sexual violence for many years. TAC members have worked hard to ensure that this gross violation of human rights is taken seriously by the justice system.

In February 2010 a Volksrust man was arrested for allegedly raping his neighbour’s seven-year-old son. The accused lured the victim into his back yard with the promise of sweets and chips and then allegedly raped the boy. The victim told his grandmother what had happened to him. She took him to hospital where medical staff confirmed that the child had been raped.

Siphesihle Shabangu, a Community Health Advocate (CHA) from TAC was alerted to this violation by the victim’s mother. Shabangu helped her to open a case and have the alleged rapist arrested. In the process it emerged that the accused had been recently released from prison after serving time for a similar crime.

In July 2010 during his bail hearing TAC branch members picketed outside court demanding that the man be denied bail. A memorandum outlining the reasons for opposing bail was handed to the prosecutor in charge of the case. The memorandum stated, “The interests of justice will be prejudiced if the accused is granted bail as we believe that [he] has a propensity to commit the crime with which he is charged and also that he might intimidate and threaten the witness and the complainant”.

The TAC branch began to mobilise and educate the local community about the problem of sexual violence. The CHA became involved with the Community Policing Forum to enable the two organisations to work together on such cases.

In October 2011 to her surprise the CHA ran into the accused on the street. Neither she nor the victim’s family knew why he had been released.

Shabangu accompanied the boy’s mother to a meeting with the case investigator, who notified them that due to a lack of evidence the charges against the accused had been dropped. This angered TAC members who wrote to the prosecutor in charge of the case seeking clarification. Their letters went unanswered.

Meanwhile, the accused had allegedly been intimidating and threatening the victim whenever he saw him. As a result the child’s mother sent him to live with his grandmother on the other side of the township.

Shabangu points out, “What’s worrying…is that this was not the first offence of the accused. The case has been ongoing since February 2010 and to this day the accused is still free while the victim has to live his life in fear.” She notes an upswing in reports of rape in the Volksrust area and says that not enough is done to protect victims and their families.

The local branch of TAC continues to pursue the case and advocate against sexual violence. They now also work with organisations assisting orphaned and vulnerable children. Shabangu remains active in the CPF, to which she reports all rape cases. Together, TAC and the CPF monitor these cases and carry out door-to-door campaigns to help community members deal with the problem of sexual violence.

By Simonia Mashangoane