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A blunder by police led to a man accused of the rape and robbery of a 74-year-old Pietermaritzburg woman walking free on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old man ought to have been brought before a magistrate within 48 hours of his arrest, in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.
But, as he was arrested on a non-court day – Saturday afternoon, hours after the attack – the 48 hours is deemed to expire at 4pm on the next court day – in this case Monday.
The alleged rapist, however, made his first appearance in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court only on Tuesday, leaving the magistrate, Reard Abrahams, no choice but to strike the matter from the roll as it was not “properly before the court”.
The prosecutor, Zandile Ndimande, revealed that she had no information as to why the suspect was not brought to court on Monday.
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, was also unable to explain the blunder, nor could he confirm whether the suspect had been re-arrested after his release.
Women’s rights activist Annie Shaw told the Daily News that she was shocked and appalled at the inefficiency of the authorities and the injustice that has resulted from it.
“This is not just, this is not fair and this is not democratic,” she said.
“This poor woman has been violated in the worst possible way and has literally been raped of all her constitutional rights, and yet the law only recognises the rights of the accused.
“This is the reason I cry for the future of this country.”
The elderly woman was attacked, raped and robbed at her home in Bisley, Pietermaritzburg on Saturday morning.
According to police, the woman was walking to her room after having a bath, when she was confronted by a man she did not know.
Her assailant is believed to have entered her granny flat through an unlocked side gate.
The woman was stabbed and then dragged to a room in the house where she was raped, before being robbed of R450 cash, a cellphone and a sewing machine.
The man was arrested hours later by members of the SAPS Pietermaritzburg Cluster Tracking Team.
This was the latest in a series of brutal attacks on elderly women in KZN.
Earlier this month a 62-year-old woman, Pauline Ngubane, was raped and murdered.
Her naked body was found on the side of Snathing Road, in Dambuza, Pietermaritzburg. Her clothing was found next to her.
Ngubane had been stabbed once in the lower back and once on her cheek. She died at the scene
Last month, an 82-year-old woman was raped in her bedroom, in Mambedwini, near Wartburg.
Her assailant, who was unknown to her, covered his face. After he left, she ran for help to her son’s house, a short distance away.
Two weeks before that a 94-year-old woman from Swayimane was raped in her home, allegedly by a 28-year-old man who had just been released on a special remission of prison sentence deal announced by President Jacob Zuma on Freedom Day. He was arrested, and denied bail in the New Hanover Magistrate’s Court.