File picture: Independent Media
Pretoria – A Mpumalanga traditional healer on Tuesday had his name cleared after spending more than a decade behind bars for allegedly raping a teenager.

The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, gave the man, who cannot be identified due to it being a sexual offence, the benefit of the doubt after the alleged victim gave various versions of the incident.

Judge Jody Kollapen said he could not find that she lied about the incident, but her various accounts of what happened had to be taken into account.

The accused, who was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in 2011, only had his name cleared now after successfully appealing his conviction.

The judge was not happy with the slow pace at which the wheels of justice had turned during the proceedings leading up to his conviction.

It was claimed that he had raped the teenager, who was 16 at the time, in 2005. The trial only commenced a year later in 2006 and the complainant only took to the witness box in 2007. Her evidence was only concluded three and a half years later.

The judge said the delays were due to a number of factors, including the availability of counsel, witnesses and the presiding magistrate.

He said that while it was difficult to blame one particular party for the delays, it could be described as an inordinate delay, which warranted the attention of the director of public prosecutions. This was to ensure that this did not happen in future.

“The administration of justice, as well as the interests of accused, victims and the public at large are not well served when the machinery of justice grinds along as slowly as it did in this matter.”

The court, meanwhile, heard that the accused in this matter was to heal the teenager from epilepsy.

Her family also took her to him, so that he could prepare her to attend initiation school.

She claimed he at first indecently assaulted her at a river, but the magistrate acquitted him on this charge.

She claimed that he later raped her after he had instructed her to bath. She said she was told not to dress after the bath and he proceeded to rape her while she was naked.

According to her, the rape took place on the sofa and he left her lying there, returning an hour later.

She said this time he had tied her hands together and raped her again, before he gave her a cellphone and his bank card and told her she could withdraw some of his money.

During cross-examination she, however, said she said was wearing track-suit pants before he raped her and there was a struggle as he tried to undress her. She then went back to her original version that she was naked at the time.

A medical examination could not conclude that she had been raped.

The traditional healer admitted that he was asked by her family to treat her but he denied raping her.

The judge said that while he was not saying the teenager had lied, he also could not find that the State had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt.

He said there were many shortcomings in the State's case. “I find it remarkable that the court (magistrate) elected to describe the contradictions in the evidence of the complainant as being not material.”

Pretoria News