The Rheenendal community outside Knysna was shocked when the case against the man accused of raping and killing nine-year-old Rosaline Philander last year was postponed for a third time.
The 32-year-old man, who has not yet pleaded and cannot be named, briefly appeared in the Knysna District Court yesterday.
The case was postponed for further investigation and he was remanded until his next court appearance on February 27.
The body of the second-grade Rheenendal Primary School pupil’s body was found in a wooded area on August 31. Her throat had been slashed and an autopsy later revealed that she had also been raped.
“It is shocking that the case has been postponed again,” said Rheenendal councillor Magda Williams, speaking on behalf of the residents.
“What is happening in Rheenendal is unacceptable. Our community is being ignored when it comes to swift justice. In the year before last, a woman was raped and killed and still that case hasn’t been solved.”
She said unless justice prevailed swiftly, the community could start “taking matters into their own hands”.
This echoed the sentiment expressed earlier by the girl’s family. Her aunt Madelein October said at the time of the murder that if the suspect ever set foot in the area again, the community would “tear him apart”.
Renowned women’s and children’s rights activist and executive director of the Masimanye women’s centre Dr Lesley Ann Foster said a delay like this was “criminal in itself”.
“It is very difficult for the parents and those left behind to find closure when the court case drags on.”
South Africa needed a policy regulating the time-frame for dealing with sexual offences cases, Foster said. “I was in Sweden recently and they have a policy to bring a case such as this to conclusion within three months.”
The biggest issue leading to delays was South Africa’s lack of forensic capability. “Sometimes forensic evidence has to be sent to Pretoria to be analysed and that takes time. But what concerns me most is the fact that some cases are dealt with speedily while others drag on. It is this inconsistency that also needs to be addressed.”
Although the council was still in recess, Williams said she would be consulting her community to “plot the way forward for obtaining swift justice”.