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Concern over rape case as father accused of raping daughter is still at large

South African Child Rights activist Joan van Niekerk. Picture: UKZN

South African Child Rights activist Joan van Niekerk. Picture: UKZN

Published May 13, 2022

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Durban - South African child rights activist Joan van Niekerk has raised concerns over the case of a 41-year-old father charged with the rape of his daughter who, as a result, is now the mother of a 3-year-old.

According to police, a case of rape was investigated by the Pinetown Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit.

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“It is alleged that in 2018, a 17-year-old woman was raped and impregnated by a relative. The suspect was arrested and he failed to appear before the Camperdown Regional Court on Friday, May 6, 2022. A warrant for his arrest has been issued by the court,” said spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Nqobile Gwala.

One of the concerns Van Niekerk voiced on Thursday was that the suspect was given bail.

She said the law was very clear that those who were accused of raping children should not be given bail unless there were extenuating or exceptional circumstances.

“So this man was able to go on the run. He is now unable to be found, (and) has threatened this young woman. The taking of her child is of particular concern and one wonders if the child was taken to prevent DNA testing, so it’s just as well that the test had already happened. But then also one wonders about the DNA profile of the father and whether this was tested as well.”

On Thursday, the now 21-year-old made a plea to law enforcement to find her father as she was tired of running because he threatened her.

She said it was not until 2020 that she opened a case with the police.

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The victim said there seemed to be little or no progress and she then took to social media, pleading for help and sharing her story. She said that an NGO answered her plea and helped her to get a DNA test done.

In September, the results of the test came back, following which police said the suspect would be sought.

Furthermore, in January this year, the victim and her mother found out that the father had appeared in court and in March the investigating officer gave the victims the accused's court appearance dates, the first on May 5.

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It is alleged that the day before the court appearance, the suspect kidnapped the child and it was during a search by the community in Inanda that he was allegedly seen leaving the child at a tavern.

Van Niekerk said abuse by parents was one of the most serious violations of trust for any child, especially sexual abuse that resulted in a pregnancy and the birth of a child.

She said it was a concern when police were slow to respond and when someone other than the police or the criminal justice system had to pay for testing (DNA) that linked the child to the alleged perpetrator.

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“This is a police function and it is important because it is proof that the father could be or is the father of the child. This young woman needs to know that the criminal justice system and the police are working for her case to be resolved. We need to apply pressure on the criminal justice system to ensure this happens for every victim of domestic violence and child abuse.”

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu reacting to the case echoed Van Niekerk’s sentiments and said that one of the challenges they (her department) have is the improvement of the country’s legal system.

“Because quite frankly, it is my government and it’s my responsibility to work very closely with the police and justice but those processes are paining for the victims they are paining for the family, even with cases of rapes over and over again they keep going to court and each time there they go there is a postponement. And every postponement is almost like a stab to the family or the victim herself, some victims are dead but it's almost like a stab to the families when the delay is too long,” she said.

Further Zulu said she had concerns and was tackling head-on the issue of children birthing babies.

“One of the issues that worry me, these 10 and 12-year-olds falling pregnant, who is doing it? It's not 10 and 12-year-old boys. Some adult impregnates a child, every time I’ve been asking can we do something about finding the adults, can we make sure there is a due process, that's what I’d like to focus on. The department has already done workshops across the country, they even have a report of where it is most prevalent and what the parents are saying about this thing. It's one of those things that are a like a pandemic.”

Professor Dr W Maluleke a Senior Lecturer at University of Limpopo’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice Witness Maluleka said that in a country with such high rates of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and sexual assaults this unsolved case showed a systematic failure by those who were legally obligated to keep women and children safe.

“It is an outcry to the operations of Criminal Justice System (CJS). The fact that the victim has to hide to get envisaged justice clearly indicates a justice miscarriage. The local South African Police Service (SAPS) is in disarray, together with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and the medical professional(s) who collected samples; this further showcases a complete ignorance of the enshrined victims rights, as the supreme law of the country refers. This is a case of incest of extreme proportions. There is so may failures in this case.”

He said that the relevant stakeholders attempting to solve this case were not servants of the State, their conducts are not exemplary “as they are failing to uphold the rights of the victim and an innocent child, they protect the alleged potential perpetrator, compliance with the law is largely destroyed in this case”.

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