Outrage erupted after “lenient” sentences were handed down to five Northern Cape men who gang-raped and assaulted an 18-year-old woman.
AN URGENT call to appeal and relook at the sentences handed down to five men who were convicted of gang-raping and assaulting an 18-year-old woman has been made to the National Prosecuting Authority in the Northern Cape.
Outrage erupted after the Hopetown Regional Court sentenced four of the accused – Joseph Kasper, 32, Pieter Visser, 21, Elcardo Demas, 22, and Kobus Daniels, 32 – to 15 years imprisonment each for rape and assault.
The fifth accused, Elton van Rooyen, 30, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for attempted rape and assault.
The complainant said that the sentences were “a bitter pill to swallow” as they were far too lenient.
“This sentence is just a slap on the wrist to the accused compared to the pain and trauma I am forced to live with,” said the tearful woman.
“This incident has placed a heavy stigma on me, which I have to carry every day when walking in this community. I am currently 31 years old and this incident occurred when I was only 18 years old. Some community members accused me of selling my body for alcohol. I had to stand strong and see this court case through until it was finalised.
“It was not easy for me to get through that process. I was just a teenager and I had to stand against a group of men to fight for justice. The worst part is that I knew all of the accused and I trusted them.
“It took about 13 years for this case to be finalised. My entire life stood still during that process. I persevered as I did not want any other girl or woman to suffer the humiliation and pain I did. Even today, there are still people who make remarks that I had sold my body and placed innocent men behind bars.
“The sentence that was imposed on the accused might give the impression that the matter was not that serious. However, this matter has changed my entire life and outlook on life. The accused assaulted and raped me. I was beaten until my eyes were blue. I would never subject my body to such treatment in order to just merely enjoy some alcohol.
“It is unfair that I am now forced to live with this matter for all my life and yet the persons responsible for placing me in this situation will get to lead a normal life after being released from prison.
“I am currently raising two daughters and a son, but am consumed with worry about their safety. If I was in charge of sentencing, I would have locked these men up for life.
“There were many people who wanted to hurt the accused, but we decided to let the justice system deal with them. I have gone the right route, but it has landed me on another difficult road.”
The incident occurred at a house in Strydenburg where the five men and the complainant were drinking at the time.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Sergio Kock said the accused took turns raping the complainant.
“Four of the accused took turns in raping and assaulting the complainant. The complainant managed to fight off the fifth accused, who also assaulted her and attempted to rape her. The complainant managed to escape and alerted the neighbours, who called the police. The men were arrested the following day and received bail eleven months after their arrest,” said Kock.
He added that the investigating team was commended for the arrests.
“The SAPS management lauds Detective Sergeant Recardo Kock and the assisting members from the Hopetown Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit for their relentless efforts in the lengthy investigation that ensured that no impunity is granted to the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” Kock said.
Following the sentencing, some community members were outraged and accused the justice system of being too merciful to the accused.
“This case shocked the entire community. The accused locked the complainant inside that house and took turns raping her. We do not know how many hours that traumatic ordeal lasted before she could break free. Even after she managed to escape, she had to run in the street naked in an attempt to seek help. This was a heinous crime and the sentences these men have received are not fit for the gruesome act they committed. These sentences are very disappointing,” they said.
Others said that criminals have more rights than the victims.
“There are many resources and assistance for criminals. The same amount of resources are not granted to complainants. Even when they are behind bars, criminals are afforded a better life than their victims. Besides the bed and roof over their head, as well as the free three-course meals they get daily, criminals are able to get free education and counselling while they are incarcerated. Accompanied by all that, they even get released after serving about half of their sentence.
“The justice system is more focussed on making life comfortable for the accused and it forgets about the complainant. The system does not care how the complainant is coping after the accused has been sentenced. This woman has to rebuild her life and was traumatised at a young age. She needs a lot of help to rebuild her life,” they said.
The spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority in the Northern Cape, Mojalefa Senokoatsane, said they will study the judgment before taking any further action.
“The NPA has noted the 15-year direct imprisonment sentence handed to a group of men by the Hopetown Regional Court for rape and assault. The NPA will peruse the judgment and forge a way forward on the decision to be taken, and see if there are prospects of an appeal. The prosecution is of the view that the sentences were not befitting of the crime committed,” said Senkoatsane.