Assaulted Durban doctor asks court not to send her attacker to jail
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Durban - A female medical doctor, who was assaulted by a deceased patient’s brother at a Durban hospital in view of patients and staff, has asked the court to be merciful and not to imprison the man for his wrongful actions.
The matter was finalised at the Durban Regional Court this week, and concerned the February 24, 2020, attack on doctor Ayesha Tariq, which left her requiring facial surgery and out of work for nine months.
Zunaid Bux, the 43-year-old accused in the case, at the time blamed Tariq for the death of his sister, Somaya Bibi Sayed.
The incident scarred Tariq emotionally and left her hugely embarrassed as the assault took place in a professional, front-line work environment at the Lenmed Nu-Shifa Hospital.
While Tariq was forgiving towards Bux, she wanted him convicted on the grievous bodily harm charge against him, but didn’t want him to receive direct imprisonment as punishment for his wrongdoing.
In extending her gesture of kindness, Tariq said she took into consideration that the attack occurred shortly after her patient - Sayed - had died at the hospital, and his personal circumstances.
Bux entered into a plea-and-sentencing agreement with the State, led by prosecutor Ronitha Singh, which had also required Tariq’s input as a victim.
He accordingly pleaded guilty to the charge, expressed remorse for the wrongfulness of his actions, and also provided Tariq with a written apology.
Magistrate BH Visagie, who handled the matter, confirmed that Bux was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment - wholly suspended for five years - provided he does not commit a similar offence in that period, according to the agreement.
Another condition of the agreement was Bux must subject himself to completing a rehabilitative programme on anger management and character building, conducted by the SA National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Regeneration of Offenders (Nicro), through direction from a social worker.
Bux had shared a close bond with Sayed, who had told her brother, on the day in question, about the “simple procedure” she was going to have at the hospital. She said she would be discharged the following day.
Tariq, a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist, was the medical practitioner who performed the procedure.
Later that day, Bux was called by his brother-in-law to come to the hospital as “something had happened to his sister”, but he hadn’t given more details.
When he got there he realised “something serious” had happened with his sister, and soon figured out that she had died.
He became frantic and emotional when his brother-in-law confirmed that Sayed was dead.
Bux went to the second-floor ward Sayed was in, and saw her body fully covered with a sheet.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Bux repeatedly shouted for the doctor, and did so until two females approached him.
When Tariq indicated she was the doctor, Bux asked: “Why did you kill my sister?”
Before he could receive a response, he moved towards the doctor and punched her in her face. The force of the blow felled Tariq.
Bux was then restrained and removed from the hospital.
In his plea statement, Bux agreed that his actions were wrongful and he was responsible for the injuries Tariq had sustained, which required medical attention.
About his personal circumstances, Bux said he had two failed marriages and was the father of two sons with his first wife.
He earned a meagre salary from transporting schoolchildren, was a volunteer at his local mosque and a for a community-based organisation.
Previously he had suffered three heart attacks and had a quadruple heart-bypass procedure in 2018.
He takes chronic medication for various health conditions and was receiving professional treatment for depression and anxiety, which came about after his second wife walked out of their relationship.
Bux stated that his father’s death in 2020 also weighed heavily on him and he served as a caregiver to his sickly mother.
He said assaulting a woman went against the principles of his upbringing, and his subsequent arrest and prosecution was a “harsh and severe” lesson learnt.
Singh stressed that Bux’s offences were a violation of Tariq’s physical and psychological integrity, and that as a doctor who worked in a professional environment, the incident caused her to become fearful of her workplace.
It impacted her professional profile and, during her nine months of recovery, Tariq was unable to attend to her patients and lost income.
Singh said professionals like Tariq faced a particular risk because they worked on the front line and bore the brunt of unhappy patients, family and members of the public.
Therefore, they need to be protected from the type of behaviour Bux had displayed, she said.