The Soweto school patroller accused or raping and sexually assaulting schoolgirls has been acquitted .File picture

Johannesburg - The school patroller accused of raping and sexually assaulting young girls at a primary school in Soweto has been acquitted of all charges by a judge who slammed investigations into the matter as "a comedy of errors". 

After a year behind bars, Johannes Molefe was released immediately on Wednesday and left the court a free man.

Molefe, 58, had been accused of three charges of rape and eleven of sexual assault which he is alleged to have committed in 2017.

Delivering the judgment at the South Gauteng High Court sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court on Wednesday, Judge Peet Johnson chastised the manner in which the case had been handled as well as investigated. 

Although Johnson said there was no way of proving whether the accused's version was true, he said the onus to prove the case lie with the State.

"If the accused gives any version that is reasonably possibly true, they must be given the benefit of the doubt," Judge Johnson said.

Johnson also took issue with the manner in which the evidence was collated, which included charges being drawn up without statements, and teachers and police contaminating evidence. The conduct of the Teddy Bear Clinic was also called problematic.

Advocate Lumka Qoqo, Molefe's lawyer, had argued throughout the trial and in her closing arguments that the girls laid the complaints as part of a factional plot against principal Maria Mthimkhulu. Certain staff members, parents and the school governing body allegedly resented Mthimkhulu, Qoqo told the court.

The mother of the first rape complainant could not hold back her tears as Molefe was acquitted, asking social workers and police why they had betrayed her 9-year-old daughter. 

But Molefe's older sister, Mitta Buthelezi, said she was very happy and relieved with the verdict.

"People said all sort of things about my brother. But I always knew that God knows the truth. I never believed that my brother had done all these things that people said he did," 72-year-old Buthelezi said.

The Star