SCHOOL RAPE VICTIM TREATED AS CRIMINAL

As we draw towards the end of Women’s Month, it seems that at least part of our education system is still working to laws of the dark ages – this after a thirteen-year-old girl who was raped by a boy at her high school hostel, whilst two other boys held her down, has been expelled from the hostel for life.

The boy who raped her later admitted to his crime and was arrested, then released pending a trial. His parents have removed him from the school. The two boys who assisted him and cheered him on were given a nine-day suspension, and are now back at the hostel.

We have changed the name of the victim and her mother in this story for obvious reasons, but they both live in Smutsville, and the victim attended Heatherlands School in George at the time, staying at the girls’ hostel.

On the afternoon of Thursday 9 March ‘,Victoria’ went across to the boys’ hostel to fetch a laptop that one of the boys had borrowed from her. The laptop belonged to her mother, ‘Agnes’, who she was seeing the following day, and after asking the boy to return it a number of times without success, she had decided to go and fetch it from his room herself.

Knowing she was not allowed into the hostel without permission, Victoria says she looked for the hostel master, but he wasn’t there.

She decided to go in anyway, and when she walked into the room belonging to the boy she found him there with three other boys.

But instead of giving her the lap top, the boys grabbed her. Two of them, both boys she knows from Smutsville, held her down and shouted words of encouragement to the boy who raped her. Another boy kept watch at the door.

Eventually, they were disturbed by the roommate of the rapist, who walked in, saw what was going on and shouted at them. In the commotion, Victoria managed to escape and ran back to her room.

She was understandably in shock and did not tell anyone about her attack until the following day when she blurted out the whole terrible ordeal to her friend, who then went to the school authorities.

The first Agnes heard about her daughter’s attack was later that day, when she was visited at her home in Smutsville by someone from the Western Cape Education Department.
“An incident involving Victoria has happened,” was all he could tell her. He then phoned a social worker, also from the department, and handed Agnes the phone.

The social worker was at the hospital with Victoria, and she told Agnes the news that no mother ever wants to hear. There had been an ‘alleged rape’, Victoria was undergoing tests, and they were waiting for the police investigator to arrive.

The same investigator brought Victoria home at 5.30pm the same day. He had interviewed her in the car, and when he met with her distraught mother, he relayed the whole horrific tale to her. The case had been reported to the police and the family made contact with the investigating officer.

Though still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Victoria bravely went back to school the following Thursday. However the next day her world fell apart again when she was sent home with a letter saying she was to face a disciplinary hearing at the school for ‘having sexual relations in the hostel’.

Having just started a new job, her shell-shocked mother asked if the hearing could be postponed to a later date, and eventually, 3 May was agreed upon. She also went to see her old Masithandane work colleague Barbara Pitt, who then called in Femke Hamming who is a well-renowned FAMSA counsellor.

Both ladies drove through with Agnes and Victoria to attend the disciplinary hearing at the school, and both were horrified with how it was handled.

They said the Governing Body Disciplinary Panel that they sat before with Agnes and Victoria, consisted of five men and one woman. When proceedings started another man came in and read out the charges for Victoria and her attacker. He also read a statement to the effect that the boy had admitted perpetrating the rape, and the fact that the two boys had held Victoria whilst the crime had been committed – which concurred with Victoria’s description of what happened. However, the boy had later retracted the second part of his statement.

After reading the charges and related statements, this man left the meeting, and Victoria had to face a long list of questions from the panel, often being pushed into such intimate detail that her mother, Barbara, and Femke cringed in their seats. Needless to say, Victoria became extremely upset during the questioning. Being asked why she hadn’t fought back she explained that she had, biting the two holding her on their arms. She was also asked why she hadn’t screamed.

Counsellor Femke could not believe the intimate questions that the obviously still suffering young girl was pushed to answer by adult men. “The disciplinary hearing should have only dealt with the fact that she had been in the boys’ hostel. The police are already investigating the rape case,” she said.

Eventually, Femke intervened and proceedings were brought to a halt before the long list of 23 questions had been completed. Victoria and those accompany-ing her were asked to wait outside whilst the panel deliberated. Half an hour later they were called back in, and Victoria was told the shocking news that she had been found guilty of misconduct and thus banned from the hostel for life.

This in effect, meant that she would have to leave the school, as the daily bus fare to and from George was totally unaffordable for her mother.

“I get the impression that they just wanted to get rid of her, to make the whole story go away,” said Agnes later.

Unable to believe that the young victim of this terrible crime has been the one punished, whilst the two boys who had held her are back at the school, Agnes, Barbara and Femke composed a long and detailed letter of appeal pointing out numerous irregularities in the hearing. This was sent to the school and to various directors in the Western Cape Education Department on 17 May.

No replies have been forthcoming to date. Meanwhile Agnes began making efforts to get Victoria enrolled in another school. She had already missed a term and certainly did not want to go back to Heatherlands in George as she had not only been tarnished as the ‘guilty party’, but would also have to share the bus with the two boys who had held her down.

After the department had promised that she would have a space in Knysna Secondary, Agnes contacted the school but were told they knew nothing about Victoria enrolling. Eventually, after sending a threatening letter to the department, they managed to get a meeting with Circuit Manager K Eksteen who made sure a place was found for her at that school, and she is continuing her studies there.

Agnes is determined that this matter is not swept under the carpet, so the same thing can happen to someone else’s child. She says Victoria’s character has been changed by her terrible ordeal. The young girl is angry and frequently aggressive and is yet to be offered counseling or support from the school, or the Department of Education.

Agnes longs for the day when a high school in Sedgefield becomes a reality, or at least a proper bus service so that children can sleep at home and parents are not forced to compromise their safety.

Both Barbara and Femke believe there has been a total miscarriage of justice, and that the school system failed to protect the victim, yet allowed the boys back into the hostel after a short suspension.

“This matter was handled so terribly from the start,” says Femke, “Schools should have a plan in place for when such things happen.”

She pointed out that according to Section 55 of the Sexual Offences Act, it is an offense to attempt, conspire with another person or incite another person to commit a sexual offense. The penalty for this is the same as if the person had committed the act.

“This means that the other boys (who helped the perpetrator) should be charged,” she explained, “He retracted the statement that they were involved but it is in the statement of the victim…. even so, nothing has happened to them through SAPS and school only suspended them for nine days which meant they acknowledged their involvement.”

The EDGE has sent inquiries to the school and the Education Department offering a chance to comment. Shortly before going to print the following note was received from Paddy Attwell, Director of Communication, Western Cape Education Department.

“The department does not have jurisdiction over discipline at the hostel, and could not consider the appeal against the decision of the school governing body.

The department views the incident in a very serious light and approved the expulsion of the boy concerned from the school, following a separate disciplinary hearing of the SGB.

District officials have explained the disciplinary process regarding the hostel to the mother and her representative.

The SGB expelled the girl from the hostel, but not the school. The school arranged to accommodate her elsewhere.

She has since moved to Knysna Secondary and does not wish to return to Heatherlands High, according to our information.”

“ACT OF GOD” RULED OUT AS CAUSE OF KNYSNA FIRES

On 14 August,  Knysna Municipal Fire Chief, Clinton Manuel, presented to various members of the media the cause of the devastating fires that spread through the area from 7 June. 

At the media briefing, also presided upon by Municipal Manager Cam Chetty and Knysna Executive Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies,  Manuel offered detailed scientific evidence which pointed to the origin of the fire being on a clearing site in Elandskraal.

“Specific patterns of the burn scars on the terrain show a definite V pattern which indicates, with a high degree of certainty, the site where the fire started. Just below this scar, we have found evidence of man-made fire,” he said.

Manuel explained that part of that evidence was a small stack of firewood, as well as pine cones, which would have had to have been brought in by someone as there are no pine trees in that vicinity.

“I can confirm that the cause of the fire being an Act of God is dispelled,” Manuel stated, referring to a number of theories being circulated which suggest that a lightning strike in the same proximity was the original cause of the fire.  Using aerial photographs of the topography and compiled data of the timing, speed, and direction of the wind on 7 June (when the fire started spreading), Manuel tracked the fire’s progress from the hills and valleys of Elandskraal to surrounding areas. His presentation offered what he believes to be conclusive proof that the fire could not have begun at the point of the lightning strike. Included were pictures taken weeks after the fire, showing that the point where the strike occurred is still surrounded by thick green vegetation.

Asked whether arson was suspected, Manuel said they could not come to this conclusion. The fact that a man made fire had resulted in such huge devastation did not necessarily mean that it had been intended for anything else than a means to keep warm or cook.  “We cannot say that this fire was started as a criminal act of arson, in other words deliberately. This investigation is now being handed over to the South African Police Services,” he stated.

At the briefing, the Mayor thanked South Africa for their continued support of Greater Knysna during and after the fires, and for keeping its residents in their thoughts and prayers.

“Following the fires we needed to decide whether we recreate what was there before or if we do things completely differently. We have chosen to respond to the disaster by finding innovative ways of becoming a disaster-wise community,” she said, “One of the biggest culprits for the intensity of the fire was invasive plant material. The Knysna Municipality plans to use that exact material to build labour intensive, cost effective, fire resistant housing.”

The Mayor added that the fire has left the area with bare slopes that are extremely susceptible to erosion. “We’ve acquired erosion control materials that are made from the fibres of invasive plants and already these geo-textiles are being installed by municipal staff in the erosion hot spots,” she explained.

Also addressing the media at the briefing, Knysna Municipal Manager Cam Chetty pointed out that Clinton Manuel has many years of experience in forensic fire investigation, including the Cape Town Fires in Camps Bay, Strandfontein, Lakeside and the Southern Peninsula fires, and that in every case his findings and conclusions had been verified,  surviving intense interrogation.  He said that there had not been a ‘delay’ in concluding the Knysna fire investigation and releasing its results, as some had suggested, but that it had taken the time that such a comprehensive investigation would anywhere else in the world.

“This report presented today included evidence and opinions of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and several other scientists, and I must say that I am extremely impressed with their methodology,” he added.

According to Chetty the Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille’s office has set up the Garden Route Rebuild Initiative to support the rebuilding of the region. Preliminary estimates, to address the infrastructure of disaster damage totals R496.3 million for the entire region.

Cost estimates for Knysna alone are:

Health infrastructure – R 1, 256 million

Agriculture – R40 million

Human Settlements – R44,920 million

Local Government – R91 573 175

Environmental affairs – R134.89 million

“Much of this funding must still be raised and applications are being made to various government departments for assistance,” the Municipal manager explained.

The Fire Chief’s scientific and technical presentation is available on the Knysna Municipal Website.

DECEASED’S BROTHER ASKING QUESTIONS

Research and information provided by Noel Solomons.

The brother of a man whose decomposing body was found lying in a ditch on the side of the road last month is appealing for information on how his thirty one year old sibling was killed, this after his inquiries with the police have brought no answers to the desperate family.

Gotso Motkhatule says that his brother Thabiso (pictured on the right) had been missing for two months before his body was found on 3 July, lying 10 metres off the N2, by truck driver Donald Stroebel.

Stroebel says that it was just before 11am when, finding the Engen Petrol Station too full for him to park his truck and use the toilet, he had stopped just short of the Swartvlei Bridge to answer the call of nature.
“As I was walking down the slope I saw something. At first I thought it was a buck or something, but when I got closer I realised what it was and rushed to call the police,” he told us.

After waiting half an hour for SAPS to arrive, he saw a policeman driving past on the way to George. He flagged the vehicle down and told the officer driving what he had found – the SAPS member kindly offered to wait on the scene so Stroebel could carry on with his journey.

Later that morning SAPS members were able to identify the body, and Gotso was called to the scene to confirm it was his brother.
The coroner has listed the cause of death as ‘Under Investigation’ on the death certificate, and SAPS spokesman Sergeant Chris Spies says that no foul play is suspected in the case.

But Gotso says that he and his family are determined to find out how his brother could have met such an untimely death. Having seen the body, he believes Thabisa had been badly beaten up, and thinks that foul play did indeed occur.

He explained that Thabisa was due to be a witness in a court case, and that this had really scared him, hence he was in the habit of disappearing for days at a time. When he hadn’t returned for so long the family believed he had gone into hiding.
Gotso is calling for anyone with any information at all about his brother’s case to take it to the police – the case number is 48/07/2017.

LOCAL BUSINESSES HIT

Just when this paper was reporting a drop in crime in the Sedgefield village last edition, a new wave of break-ins began, this time in the central business district.

According to Community Orientated Policing (COP), at least six business premises have been hit in the last two weeks, one of them twice. Those suffering from the break-ins were Dolphin Stationers, Khan’s Mini-Mark (in the same block as Dolphin) German Lane, African Affair, the Eden Ambulance Building (currently being used as a storage unit for Rebuild Eden) and the Rebuild Eden Centre (old African Affair Building).

It seems fairly clear that it is the same perpetrator(s) responsible for this new bout of criminal activity, as the ‘modus operandi’ has been of the same ‘smash and grab’ nature in each incident. Using either a rock or brick, and on occasion a thick wooden fence pole, the perpetrator(s) basically smashed a hole in the glass door or window, then reached in and grabbed whatever they could. Dolphin stationers even had their till removed, whilst the owners of African Affair were unfortunate enough to be hit twice in 10 days.

COP has advised shop owners to keep any items of value away from the windows at night so that they do not make tempting targets. Alternatively such items should be covered by working passive infrared motion detectors. “Also if you have CCTV cameras, please ensure that at least one camera is monitoring your shop front and entrance or any other vulnerable areas of your business,” says COP’s Mike Hofhuis.

COP is working closely with SAPS to ensure the arrest of these perpetrators and Hofhuis believes it is only a matter of time before they are caught. Furthermore, patrols by SAPS, the Neighbourhood Watch, COP and ADT have been increased at night in the CBD area.

Sedgefield businesses are once again called to join the Business Watch group to assist in keeping the CBD safe, day and night. Group Coordinator Michael Simon explains: “It’s a way to keep in contact with one another through a closed Whatsapp chat group. This means we can keep each other aware of suspicious activity, report crime-related incidents and hopefully prevent crime from spreading.” Membership forms are available via email sedgefieldnhw@gmail.com or at the Sedgefield Tourism Office.

Please always report crime to the police (10111 or 044 343 1321) and to COP on 074 506 7242. The more information gathered, the more effective the community crime fighting efforts will be.

REBUILD BEGINS

The beginning stages of a new life started for an Elandskraal family who suffered an extensive loss during the recent fires, as Rebuild Eden Sedgefield, together with Gift of the Givers, laid the foundations for their new home.

Many lost so much in the blazes of early June, but hearing how the Liepner family were so desperately affected all but blows the mind. Not only was Cheryl and Nick’s Elandskraal home of 32 years, with business workshop attached, razed to the ground, but their son, Zak lost his house next to Timber Village. Furthermore, Cheryl’s antique shop – the popular ‘Country Way’ situated near the N2 / Old Cape Road intersection – also burned down.
The family have been very moved, especially by the generosity of individual donors. “The big organisations have been extremely kind, but what stands out for us is how amazing the small people on the ground have been,” says Cheryl, “We cannot believe how much people in their own private capacity are prepared to help.”

Their new 42 square metre home – comprising two bedrooms, and a bathroom, living area, kitchen and patio – is the pilot project of many that will be built in the area, thanks to the Rebuild Eden (Sedgefield) and Gift of the Givers partnership.

HAT-TRICK FOR SEDGE SUPERSTARS

Heartiest congratulations to our very own Atlantic Spurs Netball Squad, who have taken the Winners Trophy of the Knysna Oyster Festival for the third year in a row!

The local lasses played hard over the two day tournament which was held in Hornlee on 14 and 15 July, eventually making it through to the finals. Their opponents, Knysna United, made sure that the game was no easy victory, but the Spurs rallied to the challenge and soon started easing ahead. The final score was 37 to 17 and the golden cup and winners medals were brought back to Sedgefield.

“We would like to congratulate the runners up on a great game,” said jubilant Spurs team member Charmornay Ruiters.

DOCUMENT HELP FOR FIRE VICTIMS

EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE TO HELP FIRE VICTIMS IN KNYSNA

The Department of Local Government, in partnership with other provincial departments and Knysna Municipality, will be implementing an “Emergency Thusong Outreach” in Knysna to provide an opportunity for citizens affected by the recent fire disaster to access government services.

The purpose of the “Thusong Outreach Project” is to bring government integrated services to the people who lost or misplaced their identity documents, birth certificates during the disaster, as well as to apply for a pension, UIF etc.  In addition, bringing services closer to the people will reduce associated transport cost.

The Thusong Outreach will benefit the whole community of Kynsna Municipality in obtaining new documentation to replace any that may have been lost during the fire disaster. This outreach will also save the residents time and money, getting everything they need in one day at one location.

The Department of Local Government has been responsible for the Thusong Outreach for the last 6 years, and the goal has been to ensure access to-and the continuous expansion of the basket of services provided through a coordinated approach from different government departments.

On the day various government departments, NGOs and other stakeholders including Knysna Municipality will be rendering services to the affected citizens. South African Police Service will assist with certification of documents whilst Home Affairs will provide ID and Birth registration. The Health Department will conduct health check, HIV Counselling, and Testing, Human Settlements will provide information on housing.

Date:             26/27 July 2017

Time:             26 July: 09:00 – 15:30

         27 July: 09:00 – 15:30

Venue:          Knysna Town Hall

PLEASE DON’T FEED THE FIRE-AFFECTED WILDLIFE

SANParks scientists and civil society research groups have reiterated the call for residents to desist from feeding the wildlife that they believe has been affected by the recent fires. This comes after volunteer groups had dropped vegetables and seeds for animals to eat in the National Park and surrounds.

This week, authorities detailed reasons for discouraging the feeding of animals in burnt areas. Park Manager of the Garden Route National Park, Paddy Gordon, says:

Park Manager of the Garden Route National Park, Paddy Gordon, says:

  • ‘The fire scar thus far illustrates an elongated line which suggests animals could have moved to either side of the fire.
  • Feeding wild animals may lead to an increase in animal conflict with each other. Once all the feeding programs and volunteers withdraw relief effort, animals will keep coming to usual spots to collect food which could lead to a conflict with other wild animals, domestic pets and also with humans.
  • Feeding also habituates animals to humans
  • Spreading fodder over burnt areas might also lead animals to eat both fodder and any new growth of plants or shoots. This might delay the growth of plants in those areas.
  • As feeding animals can also have an influence on breeding patterns in some animal species, should the feeding suddenly stop, animals will also be severely affected.’

Gordon says SANParks staff are part of the ‘ground-truthing exercise’ with other stakeholders to determine further assessment post the fire.  Once this is completed, certain areas will be identified for rehabilitation but other areas will regrow.

Residents who spot injured animals as a result of the recent fires can contact the Knysna Animal Welfare Society (044 384 1603) or an emergency after hours number: 073 461 9825.

MUNICIPALITY SIGNS CONTRACT WITH KNYSNA & PARTNERS

 

(Picture Knysna & Partners Board Chairperson Elmay Viljoen Bouwer and Knysna Executive Mayor, Eleanore Bouw-Spies and Knysna earlier today (12 July) during the official signing of the SLA.)
The Knysna Municipal Council resolved on 26 May to renew the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Knysna and Partners (K&P) for 12 months. Thereafter followed a month and a half of stressful to-ing and fro-ing, leaving residents and indeed members of the Knysna and Partners staff wondering if the deal would ever be cut and dry. Thus a huge sigh of relief was the order of the day when the SLA was officially signed on 12 July.
Knysna Executive Mayor executive mayor, Eleanore Bouw-Spies said, “I am delighted that we have reached this agreement to renew the contract between Council and K&P. The economy of this town is dependent on tourism, including the livelihoods and employment of people. We need to do everything possible to protect and grow our economy. As we work to rebuild our town, it is more than ever vital that we continue to revive and grow in our tourism sector as it is one of the main economic drivers of Greater Knysna. Through this agreement we are also saving jobs for our local people.”
Bouw-Spies explained that the Knysna and Partners’ performance will be monitored and that they are required to report to Council. “As per section 4.2 and 4.3 of the SLA, it is specifically agreed that K&P shall within 30 days of signature submit an implementation plan for the services set to the Municipal Manager. It is further agreed that K&P shall enter into a performance agreement whereby their performance as a service provided will be evaluated, quarterly against pre-determined performance objectives.”
The Mayor concluded, “Before the devastating fires, Knysna was a popular tourist destination and well-known international brand and we would like to keep it that way. We are confident that this will be possible through a strong relationship between Council and Knysna and Partners.”

FESTIVE OYSTERFEST

(Picture:- Miss South Africa Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters celebrating the Oyster Festival opening with MP James Vos, Shadow Minister of Tourism.)

The Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival is in full swing, kicking off last weekend with a successful Momentum Knysna Cycle Tour which saw thousands of cyclists descend on Knysna for the MTB races on Saturday and the road races on Sunday.
The Festival was officially opened at Whe+ restaurant in Knysna on Thursday 6 July, with a ribbon cutting ceremony witnessed by over 300 guests and VIPs, including MP James Vos Shadow Minister of Tourism, Executive Mayor of Knysna Councillor Eleanore Bouw-Spies, Miss South Africa Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters and sponsors, organisers and members of the community.
Mayor Bouw-Spies said that the town of Knysna had always looked towards the Oyster Festival to help revive the ailing tourism economy.
“This time the knock that our economy is taking is not merely as a result of a downward global economic spiral but also a force of nature that was completely out of our hands, the devastating Knysna Fires,” she said.
The overriding message of the evening, however, was one of hope. “Tourism is alive and well in Knysna,” was the announcement from Chairperson of Knysna & Partners, Elmay Bouwer. “We are really excited about this year’s Pick and Pay Knysna Oyster Festival. It’s been a challenging few weeks, but Knysna has managed to rise from the ashes and say to the local and international tourism community that we are strong, we are here, and we are open for business.”
Bouwer also thanked the festival’s headline sponsors, Pick n Pay and Momentum, “For not only making sure that the festival goes ahead, but also for setting their marquees up early so that the disaster relief effort could use the facilities.”
MP James Vos said that “Knysna is heavily dependent on tourism, and residents would be dealt an additional blow if their tourism economy were to decline. Therefore, I’m thrilled by the response from the tourism industry together with the authorities that this town remains ‘open for business’.
“Following on this, I’m happy to report that the Western Cape Government has pledged financial assistance of R75 million towards the rebuilding of this town, and furthermore WESGRO has provided over R100 000 to sponsor and promote the Knysna Oyster Festival and Knysna as an ultimate place to visit.”
The Mayor concluded with an invitation to all residents and visitors to revel in the excitement of the festival.
“Get on a bicycle, put on your hiking boots, start slurping on those delectable molluscs that the festival was named after,” she said, “Grab a shuttle and sample great South African wine at the Knysna Wine Festival. Giggle through the Chuckles Comedy Show. Watch or join in during the Oyster Shucking and Eating Competition.”
“Let’s ensure that everyone in Greater Knysna benefits from the enormous boost to the economy that the festival brings. Let the fun begin!” The festival will run until 16 July. The full programme is available on www.oysterfestival.co.za.