Cop arrested for rape hailed as victory
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Cape Town - Sex worker activists have hailed as a rare victory the speedy arrest of a Cape Town police captain accused of raping a sex worker.
They said that most such cases went unreported - despite a pilot education drive rolled out in the province to sensitise officers in dealing with sex workers.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) on Monday confirmed that a captain in the Western Cape police’s Special Task Force had been arrested for rape last week. He is the fifth police officer to be arrested for rape in the province since July 10.
Ipid spokesman Moses Dlamini said a 26-year-old woman had been picked up by the policeman in a private vehicle in the early hours of August 3.
After agreeing on a price for oral sex, the policeman allegedly changed his mind and demanded sex. When the woman refused, he assaulted and raped her. After the rape, the woman escaped and later reported the vehicle’s registration number to the police.
Five days later, the policeman was arrested and detained at Claremont police station. He appeared in Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on charges of rape and assault on Monday.
Western Cape NPA spokesman Eric Ntabazalila said the police officer was granted bail of R1 000 and ordered not to make contact with the complainant.
“We are pleasantly surprised,” said Ntokozo Yingwana of the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat), adding that often sex workers were too afraid to report rapes. In this case it appeared that the woman did not know the alleged rapist was a police officer.
“Usually there is a tardiness in these investigations, and we have to do a lot of canvassing before we see an arrest. In this case we came to hear about the rape only after the arrest had already been effected. This should be precedent setting.”
Sweat have vowed to picket at the man’s future court appearances.
Pickets of this sort were more than a show of solidarity and could have a discernible impact on how seriously a case was taken by prosecutors and the Justice Department, said Sithuthukile Mkhize of the Women’s Legal Centre. “Unfortunately, sex workers are often marginalised and cases can come to naught if they do not have the backing of organisations, activists and members of the public who continue to lobby on their behalf,” she said.
In August last year, the Women’s Legal Centre and Sweat published a report on the abusive relationship between police and sex workers in South Africa. The report found that 70 percent of the 308 sex workers who were interviewed had experienced abuses at the hands of police officers.
These included cases of rape, sexual assault, assault and police corruption - abuses which were found to be “systemic and widespread” in the police’s dealings with sex workers.
Following the report, Deputy Minister of Police Makhotso Magdalene Sotyu visited Sweat’s Cape Town offices and allowed the organisation to run training workshops at police stations.
Ninety-five officers have since received the training, and “sensitisation pamphlets” are due to be distributed at police stations. Sweat hopes that the training programme can be rolled out to other provinces in the coming months.