Cape Town - A police colonel broke down several times during her testimony at the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry on Thursday.
Sonja Harri, Western Cape head of the child protection, family violence and sexual offences (FCS) unit, spoke of the trauma of handling child rape and murder cases in the province.
Harri admitted that the Khayelitsha FCS unit had often failed rape survivors.
“...Because of the performance of FCS Khayelitsha, I several times had to send in a team... to trace suspects,” Harri said.
This included the case of serial rapist Soyisiso Nofemele, a 26-year-old who was convicted of 11 rapes in 2012.
Harri was asked about the damning testimony of Genine Josias, a doctor dealing with rape survivors at the Thuthuzela centre in the area, during earlier proceedings.
In January, Josias broke down in tears while testifying about Nofemele who was arrested one year after she raised the alarm in 2010.
Josias 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.
In addition, the girls were all raped in bushes in Endlovini, on the outskirts of the township.
When she brought it to the attention of a superintendent and a captain, she was not taken seriously.
It took a phone call to then Western Cape police commissioner Mzwandile Petros, and a threat to alert the media, for him to order the formation of a task team to probe the matter.
“Many more girls were raped and I just think they could have done something earlier, you know, to prevent that,” a tearful Josias said at the time.
During Thursday's proceedings, the legal representative for NGO the Social Justice Coalition, Ncumisa Myosi asked Harri: “The fact that she (Josias) observed that there was a pattern emerging before the police... suggested there was something deeply flawed in that unit?”
“Yes, I do agree,” Harri responded.
The commission was set up by Western Cape premier Helen Zille after complaints of police inefficiency in Khayelitsha.
The move was met with resistance by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa who went as far as the Constitutional Court to block the commission.
Mthethwa lost his court bid in October last year.