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Port Elizabeth - The trial involving a mentally disabled 13-year-old girl who was allegedly forced into a marriage with an elderly man, hit another snag in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday when the court heard that separate legal representation was needed for one of the accused. 

The trial was set down for three weeks but defence attorney Jodene Coertzen said that after consultation with all three accused on Monday, it emerged that one of them would need separate legal representation. 

It emerged that the girl’s so called “husband” had made light of a version contrary to that of his co-accused. For this reason, Coertzen argued she cannot represent him as it would be a conflict of interest. 

The uncle of the little girl, along with two other persons are facing charges which include human trafficking in persons and concluding a forced marriage for the purposes of exploitation. The girl’s 61-year-old “husband” faces two additional charges of rape.

According to the indictment, it was alleged that the girl, who cannot be named, was forced to marry the 61-year-old man who was known to her uncle.

The trio, who are all pensioners, have not yet pleaded to the charges against them. 

Coertzen did, however, indicate that the girl’s uncle and a 63-year-woman intended to make admissions to court which would shorten the trial. 

State Prosecutor Zelda Swanepoel said that her concern was for the child and further asked the court to accommodate the victim so that she may start with testimony.

Judge Glen Goosen considered the circumstances but with one of the accused needing new legal representation, said he was more inclined to postpone the matter. 

Following the death of the girl’s mother when she was just nine years old, she went to to live with her uncle in KwaDukuza, Kwa-Zulu-Natal, in 2012.

During December 2014 the girl accompanied the daughter of one of the accused, a 63-year-old woman, to visit her mother.

From there, in January 2015, the girl went to live with the 63-year-old woman’s daughter in Bizana, in rural Eastern Cape, where she attended school.

The uncle is not being named to protect the identity of the girl. 

According to the indictment, the following year, the 61- year-old man from Greenbushes in Port Elizabeth entered into lobola negotiations with the girl’s uncle and in November 2016 the victim was told she would not return to school and would be married to the elderly man. 

The 63-year-old woman, whose daughter had been looking after the girl, then allegedly put the girl in a taxi destined for Port Elizabeth.

When she arrived at Njoli Square, the 61-year-old man is said to have met her there before taking her to his Greenbushes home where he allegedly instructed her to undress and get into bed.

Court documents cite that when the teenager resisted the man’s advances he throttled her and forcefully had sex with her.

In January 2017, the man instructed his stepdaughter to take the girl to buy clothes and a bus ticket to Durban.

The victim then travelled back to Durban where she was met by the 63-year-old woman. The woman allegedly informed the girl that she was now a married woman and had to wear “makoti clothes”.

The woman then took the girl back to Bizana where she stayed in her “husband’s” new house and had to live and work as the elderly woman’s daughter-in-law.

Then in April 2017 the girl was allegedly sent back to Port Elizabeth after she was caught speaking to another girl her age.

When she arrived in Port Elizabeth she was allegedly taken back to the man’s house in Greenbushes where he again repeatedly raped her.

All three of the accused are out on bail. 

The case was postponed until March 25 for trial. 

African News Agency/ANA