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‘Danger to women’ granted bail

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Freelance journalist Douglas Mthukwane, 43, was granted bail of R2,000 despite concerns raised by the State that he posed a “danger to women”.

Rape accused Douglas Mthukwane. File picture: Danie van der Lith

FREELANCE journalist Douglas Mthukwane, 43, was granted bail of R2,000 despite concerns raised by the State that he posed a “danger to women”.

Mthukwane was arrested for allegedly raping a 26-year-old traditional healer after apparently requesting her to perform a cleansing ritual at his municipal flat in Beaconsfield on November 24, 2023.

Mthukwane gingerly dabbed his face with his handkerchief on January 10 when Kimberley magistrate Mongala found that he had “met the threshold” to be released from custody as he had health complications and would suffer financially if he remained behind bars.

During his bail application this week it was indicated that Mthukwane suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, depression and fatty liver disease.

Facebook messages and WhatsApp texts between Mthukwane and the complainant were also presented to the court, where he expressed his admiration and love for the traditional healer whom he has been accused of raping.

His legal representative, advocate Sakkie Nel, told the court that Mthukwane had met the complainant at Lemon Tree restaurant, where she was working as a chef.

“He denies requesting her to cleanse his flat on the night of the alleged incident,” said Nel.

“According to Mthukwane, they visited Tapello’s place to drink alcohol before departing for his home on November 24, 2023. It is highly improbable that the complainant would have gone alone at night to the home of someone she never knew. Their recorded conversations will form a crucial part of the evidence that may serve to acquit the accused.”

Nel motivated that the father of four children aged four, 12, 15 and 18 years old – who were living with their respective mothers – should be released from custody as he had to financially support his family and mother who was a pensioner.

He pointed out that Mthukwane had to be hospitalised after being assaulted in prison.

“His equipment was stolen from his apartment while he was in custody. His business has come to a standstill and he is missing out on opportunities for his contracts. He is a freelance journalist and director of a company that offers editing, proofreading services as well as restorative justice.

“A negative ruling was issued as he was unable to attend a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration hearing on December 8. He stands to suffer an R80,000 loss. He is suffering a financial uphill battle and is unable to secure any contracts while in custody.”

Nel stated that his client’s only criminal record entailed correctional supervision and community service after being convicted of an attempted rape that took place in 1995 when he was 15 years old.

“He is facing three pending rapes in the Northern Cape High Court that were allegedly committed in 2016, 2017 and 2019 that have not been finalised. He may have to wait another year before he is admitted for 30 days of mental observation. The DNA results will also take a long time.”

Nel added that Mthukwane was never refused bail.

“A bail condition was withdrawn after he was appointed as the national South African Federated Trade Union (Saftu) spokesperson, as it was ‘difficult’ for him to report twice weekly to the police station.

“Mthukwane will not endanger public safety, will not intimidate any witnesses or interfere in the investigation. He is able to afford bail of R2 000, while his family is willing to supplement this amount if necessary. He intends to plead not guilty to the charges.”

The investigating officer in the matter, Warrant Officer André Brouwers, believed that Mthukwane was a “danger to women” and that he should remain in custody.

“The accused has a history of rape and was not deterred from raping more victims after being released on bail. The offence is very serious and he is appearing in various courts on different charges of rape. The community is tired of these types of offences and the Traditional Healers Organisation and Women to Women handed in petitions urging for the accused to be denied bail.”

Brouwers stated that the complainant had agreed to perform a cleansing ritual at Mthukwane’s apartment as she trusted the accused.

“There is no known relationship between them. She was surprised as to how he obtained her cellphone number when he phoned to fetch her from her residence at 7.30pm.”

He added that the complainant felt uncomfortable when the accused locked the door and security gate when she entered the flat.

“She said that after showing her around his home, he threw her on top of the bed when they went into the bedroom. She stated that he was very strong and that he pinned her down, undressed and penetrated her. She could not recall whether he had used a condom.”

Brouwers said that the accused became frightened when the traditional healer started speaking in tongues.

“She repeatedly asked him to stop. She managed to call a friend to fetch her when he jumped up.”

Brouwers indicated that he would verify the phone numbers where the conversations were sent as he was not aware of the messages that were exchanged between the accused and the complainant.

State prosecutor Buntu Dwenga stated that the community would be shocked and outraged and would lose confidence in the justice system should Mthukwane be released on bail.

“As long as the accused is free, no woman is safe. He keeps on committing sexual offences after being released on bail and blatantly disregards his bail conditions. If he is released, he may re-offend and continue to victimise vulnerable women. He was also charged with raping another sangoma and his conduct shows a pattern of terrorising women. Clearly, he has a fetish that manifests itself in a sexual manner.”

Dwenga believed that the messages exchanged had led to the victimisation of the complainant.

“The calls and text messages show that his acts were premeditated. The defence does not deny that a sexual engagement took place and they will need to prove that it was consensual.

“The accused did not provide the court with any exceptional circumstances to justify his release. He does not deserve any special treatment in prison and can be referred if he needs more advanced medical treatment,” Dwenga added.

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