Two Soweto women, bitterly disappointed after cases they opened were withdrawn from court, claim they have been failed by the justice system.
The first woman, Neo Moloi, was assaulted outside her Orlando West home on October 16 last year after an argument broke out between her and two neighbours.
Speaking to The Star Africa as she sat nervously on the edge of her bed in her room, she said: “I had gone out of the yard at about 8am to call one of the youngsters in our street to ask him to go the shops for me. As I walked towards the park, I noticed an elderly woman I knew speaking to two other people I knew as acquaintances.”
She passed the trio without greeting and as she walked back to her home, the two who had been standing with the elderly woman followed her and yanked her by her long braids. “They then pulled me by my arms, one on either side. The man stabbed the side of my eye and the woman kept hitting me,” she said, voice trembling. Eventually, after hearing screams outside the house, Moloi’s sister Matu came out and helped to end the brawl.
At about 9am, Moloi went to open a case of assault at Meadowlands police station against her attackers. Moloi was instructed by officers to go to the doctor to have her injuries checked and for the doctor to compile a J88 form.
The form, which The Star Africa has seen, said that Moloi had sustained “eye conjunctival bleeding, abrasions on both forearms, left thigh bruising and swelling” and concluded that she had been assaulted and had soft tissue injuries. “The man was arrested the same day as the assault; the woman fled, but was also arrested during the week. They were released on bail,” she said.
Moloi said the case was postponed at Meadowlands Magistrate’s Court more than six times. She said: “My sister spoke as a witness at one of the times we went to court. All the other times either the magistrate or the prosecutors were not in court and it would have to be remanded.”
Eventually, on May 29, Moloi was told the matter had been withdrawn from court. “I told the prosecutor I was not satisfied with how the case went. The very same night when I came home from the gym I heard the police had been looking for me.
“The next morning the woman came to my house with a protection order against me.
“I was shocked because I was the one assaulted, yet I was being served with papers,” she said, exhaling deeply as she held back tears.
Constable Sibusiso Chauke, spokesman for the police station, confirmed that an assault case had been opened at the station and that it had gone to court.
Disgruntled over how her case was handled, Moloi went back to the police station to find out why her case had been withdrawn.
“On June 11, an officer told me my docket was at the Protea Magistrate’s Court and that it hadn’t been recorded that it was withdrawn…” she said.
“I am not satisfied at all; I think there’s something going on at either the court or the police station.
“Clearly if one has money, you can pay to have a case disappear. It’s not fair. The justice system did nothing for me. The main thing was that I was assaulted and I am still traumatised till this day, yet I still have to see these people every day.”
Gali Tawena lost her only son, Obakeng Makwela, in November 2010 after he was attacked while out with his friends at night.
The report of a postmortem examination said he died of a penetrating wound to the right side of his groin. Two people were arrested in connection with his murder and after four court appearances, the matter was withdrawn and Tawena says no one ever explained to her why.
“We gave police and prosecutors everything. We even told them that Obakeng’s cellphone had been missing since the night of his death and maybe there could be a link with his murder, but that was never investigated.
“No one ever told me when these boys were appearing in court… I had to hear from my late son’s friends every time they heard something. Didn’t I deserve to know? Shouldn’t I have been at least told why the case was withdrawn?” Tawena asked.
The Star Africa tried contacting the investigating officer for Obakeng’s murder on Wednesday and his phone rang unanswered throughout the day.
The Star Africa contacted the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Mthunzi Mhaga on Monday morning. He referred us to his colleague, Phindy Louw. We sent Louw our queries, stating we needed a response by 3pm that day.
l On what basis did prosecutors decide to prosecute a case and why would a case be withdrawn?
l What were the statistics for assault cases which were withdrawn, particularly in Soweto courts?
l Why would a case still be withdrawn despite medical evidence being presented?
On Tuesday morning Louw said she had sent the queries to the senior public prosecutor in Soweto for a response and she would get back to us.
On Wednesday we sent a reminder to Louw that we needed a response by 3pm but she did not respond. - The Star