When one of the men serving a life sentence for the brutal attack on Alison Botha bragged about possibly getting released on parole, the news was passed on to his victim.
It was a horrifying revelation for Botha, whose name has become synonymous with the empowerment of rape survivors the world over.
The attackers left Botha for dead and her fight for survival astounded doctors after her throat and stomach were slashed open.
New legislation came into effect last year stating that any prisoner who received a life sentence before 2004 can now apply for parole after serving at least 13 years and four months of their sentence.
This means that Frans du Toit and Theuns Kruger could be back on the streets – just 17 years into their life sentences for rape and attempted murder.
While the Department of Correctional Services has insisted that a parole hearing is a long and thorough process, the new legislation means that 5 000 inmates jailed for life are now eligible for a new parole hearing.
“I just hope it is that way for all the other criminals.
“Can you imagine if just 100 lifers are released into society who are not rehabilitated?” Botha told The Star this morning.
Yesterday Correctional Services spokesman Sonwabo Mbananga said Botha’s attackers had yet to appear before a parole board, and that it would be the minister who would ultimately make the decision on each hearing.
He could not be drawn to comment on how releases could affect the victims or their families.
In 1994, Botha’s two attackers were convicted of rape and attempted murder after stabbing her more than 30 times, with 16 slashes to her throat.
Despite having to hold in her own intestines and crawl to a nearby highway, Botha miraculously survived after being rescued.
She testified against her two attackers, and reclaimed her life.
Since the attack, she has published a detailed account of the experience and become a well-known motivational speaker across the country.
When it was revealed in the media that Kruger and Du Toit were applying for parole, Botha received a flood of phone and e-mail requests for interviews.
But after a week of only giving minor statements, Botha has decided to speak.
Alison Botha’s statement:
I have avoided speaking directly to the media over the past few days, but now feel compelled to make a statement due to the erroneous impressions created in some news articles that have quoted me, although I have not agreed to any interviews on the matter of my attackers being granted parole.
I have been overwhelmed and deeply heartened these past few days by the massive support from the public, and have felt quite inundated with the interest and attention from the media.
Following a tip-off to a journalist that my one attacker, Theuns Kruger, was bragging that he would soon be released, the spotlight has once again fallen on me and, specifically, my two attackers. However, I cannot help but think of the other 5 000-odd life prisoners who are also now eligible to apply for parole as a result of the 2011 court order allocating maximum credits to all life prisoners sentenced before October 2004.
Every one of these prisoners has one or more victims and families of victims who must have been just as shocked and fearful when they learned of this new law.
At that time, I immediately went about contacting the Correctional Services Department and the relevant parole boards dealing with my two attackers.
I discovered then that the burden of responsibility to enquire about my attackers and the likelihood of their parole fell on me. I had to approach the parole boards first to start the process.
Since then, however, I have been encouraged by the information and updates forthcoming from the parole board. I was invited to give a written representation as a victim of the crime, which I understand will be seriously considered at any parole hearings of my offenders.
I have no reason to believe that the parole board will not honour its assurances to keep me informed of any progress with regards to my attackers’ parole applications.
My heart goes out to all the other victims and their families who know, like me, that our lives will never be the same as a result of the actions of violent criminals.
We should all endeavour to accept that there is nothing we can do to change the past, but at least we know that we can be involved in the process of the parole applications for the offenders.
I agree that it is not a pleasant prospect for any of us, but I have found the parole board staff to be both encouraging and sensitive in their dealings with me, and I would trust that others could look forward to the same treatment.
The parole boards have been given a difficult and incredibly responsible task.
The more information they have at their disposal during any hearings, the greater the likelihood of their making the right decisions in the best interests of the general public, and, perhaps more importantly and specifically, the victims and their families.
I would strongly encourage the media to remain vigilant and attentive to the process to ensure that all steps are taken not to release prisoners who are a real danger to society, and the public to continue the campaign for awareness, the signing of petitions for stricter parole procedures and to demand that they are informed and protected. - The Star