Grim tale of sex offence unit

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Copy of ca p12 Sonja Harri don

INLSA

Colonel Sonja Harri, Western Cape head of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences. Photo: Willem Law

 

Cape Town - The police’s Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit in Khayelitsha was the worst performing unit in the province, the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry heard on Thursday.

During her testimony, Western Cape head of the unit Colonel Sonja Harri painted a grim picture of the Khayelitsha unit. She wept several times during her testimony.

She spoke about how the unit was under pressure, overworked and careless when handling crucial evidence.

“I don’t know what it is. Maybe they have become so tired and thinking no help is coming.

“It’s almost as if they have become desensitised and just going through the motions.”

She gave details of two high-profile cases she helped solve: the rape and murder of Bredasdorp teenager Anene Booysen and Khayelitsha rapist Soyisiso Nofemele, who was convicted in 2012 of 12 counts of rape, 12 counts of abduction and one of murder.

Harri said that because of the state the Khayelitsha unit was in, she had used members from other areas.

“It was a very emotional time,” she said, recalling her first weeks tracking Nofemele. “We didn’t know which child would be raped next or where it was going to happen. We had DNA evidence but we did not have a face or an address.

“We did what was humanly possible with the resources we had. It’s unfortunate that children had to go through that and that families were broken after what happened to their kids.”

Harri was asked to comment on the testimony given by Dr Genine Josias, a medical co-ordinator for the Khayelitsha Thuthuzela Forensic Centre. Josias had sounded the alarm on a possible serial rapist preying on girls in Khayelitsha’s Endlovini informal settlement. A police captain failed to report her concerns to his seniors.

It was only after she contacted the provincial commissioner that a task team had been established.

Josias cited an incident in which rape kits, containing evidence collected by the centre, had been found in a field in Delft.

Harri said the Khayelitsha Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit suffered “low moral and a lack of professionalism”.

“Members of Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences units have high levels of stress. There are people’s emotions and futures we have to take into consideration.”

Unit members were instructed to attend debriefing sessions twice a year to help them deal with the trauma and stress of their job, but most chose not to. There is a mentality in the police that cowboys don’t cry… they don’t want to be referred for counselling.”

Harri told the commission that her inspection report showed that a number of cases had been struck off the roll because the Khayelitsha unit had failed to complete investigations.

nontando.mposo@inl.co.za

Cape Argus


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