Cape Town - Scores of rapists go scot-free each month as a result of a severely overloaded justice system, the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.
“(The number of rapes) can vary... from 50 to 110 cases a month,” Genine Josias, the medical co-ordinator at one of the Thuthuzela care centres in the area, told the commission in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
Only about seven percent of the perpetrators were brought to book.
“I probably testify in less than 10 percent of the cases I see,” she said.
The rest of the cases were withdrawn or struck off the court roll.
Josias said the police's specialised family violence, child protection and sexual offences units (FCS) only had five investigating officers managing rape cases in the sprawling township.
“Since 2004 to now there has been a huge reduction in the number of investigating officers,” she said, referring to capacity constraints at the FCS unit in the area.
The officers were “burnt out” as they had massive caseloads. In one instance, one of the officers had 180 sexual assault dockets for investigation on his desk.
Josias was speaking on the fifth day of the commission, set up by Western Cape premier Helen Zille after an NGO, the Social Justice Coalition, complained that police inaction was leading to Khayelitsha residents taking the law into their own hands.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa opposed the decision to set up the inquiry, but this was dismissed by the Constitutional Court in October 2013.
Evidence leader Thembalihle Sidaki asked Josias if she was aware of a January 2011 newspaper headline on the discovery of sexual offences kits on a field in Delft.
“I am painfully aware of that incident,” a visibly angry Josias answered.
The kits contained underwear, DNA samples and pubic hairs which she and her colleagues had collected and handed to an investigating officer.
“The kits were from his (investigating officer's) home. It was never handed in (to the forensic science laboratory). We don't know how it landed on the field.”
The officer had since died. Josias said she never received feedback on whether the cases ever made it to court.
Josias broke down in tears when asked about a serial rapist who was arrested one year after she raised the alarm in 2010. She 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.
The man was suspected of raping 21 girls. DNA samples collected could only link him to 11 of the rapes.
“He had no choice but to plead guilty... it didn't actually go to an open court because the evidence was overwhelming.”
When asked about her frustrations in seeing so many sexual assault survivors denied justice, despite her hard work, Josias lashed out at government for “having no idea” what long-term effects rape had on survivors.
“It's not about my hard work. That is my job. We are failing our people. We are failing helpless kids, children that are innocent.”