“We love you dad, we know you are innocent and we want to testify for you.”
This was the message Jason Rohde’s twin daughters sent their father via a family member after receiving the news that he had been found guilty of murdering their mother at Spier Hotel in 2016.
The exact nature of their testimony is not known, but Rohde lawyer Tony Mostert confirmed the possible appearance of the Rohde siblings. “In all probability one or more will testify,” he said.
Rohde’s 18-year-old daughters Josie and Alexandra, who are writing matric exams at Diocesan School for Girls in Grahamstown, heard about their father’s fate as they walked into their Afrikaans exam.
“Their immediate reaction was pain and disbelief,” said a source close to the family who asked for anonymity. “That was followed by, ‘When is dad getting out?’ The family member who broke the news then had to gently tell them that he wasn’t, that his bail had been revoked and he was going to jail for the murder of their mom.”
The twins’ message was conveyed to Rohde by family who visited him at Pollsmoor for the first time the day after Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe found him guilty of murder and defeating the ends of justice.
The Pollsmoor visit was very emotional, said the source. “Especially when Jason heard his girls wanted to testify. He smiled and there were tears in his eyes. It was clear it touched him. But he refused point-blank to allow it, despite protest from some family members.”
Rohde’s eldest daughter Kathryn, 20, a Stellenbosch University student, is battling to come to terms with the judgment and is keeping a low profile, said the source.
“She’s damn strong like her dad but she’s also typical Jason and doesn’t talk. She keeps her emotions to herself.”
Sources said Rohde was eventually persuaded by his lawyers to allow his daughters to testify during the mitigation of sentence argument this coming Wednesday.
Adding to weeks of pressure since the November 8 verdict are reports that the State will also be approaching the Rohde daughters to testify in aggravation of sentence.
This is not the first time the State will be seeking evidence from Rohde’s daughters. Sources close to Rohde revealed that State prosecutor Louis van Niekerk had approached his daughters’ therapists for their therapy records while he was building his case.
“He managed to get Kathryn’s records without parent approval because her therapist just handed them over. But when the school was approached to get therapy details and notes for Josie and Alexandra they immediately alerted Jason. After they heard he hadn’t granted permission or even been told about it they immediately sent the prosecutor packing and have been very protective of the girls ever since.”
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila confirmed the approaches.
“It is the duty of a prosecutor to guide the investigator in evaluating all available and relevant evidence. The State needed to determine before the trial started whether any of the girls could contribute to the State’s case.
“The State disclosed to the defence in 2017 that it made contact with the psychologist of the... eldest daughter. Parental approval in this instance did not play a role, as she is an adult.”
Rohde’s conflict of interest as a father and a murder accused also had informed this approach, added Ntabazalila.
“In the interest of justice and with the best interests of the minor twins in mind, the State likewise contacted the boarding school of the twins,” said Ntabazalila. “The accused, through a law firm, prevented the State interviewing the twins before the trial started. With different facts this could be considered prima facie defeating or obstructing of the administration of justice.”