Cell rape trauma continues

2008-10-26 00:00

THE mental anguish of Vryheid game farmer Etienne van Wyk who, according to a district surgeon, was repeatedly sodomised in a police cell, and former farm manager Zachariah Duvenhage, who was assaulted and robbed, has been prolonged by the withdrawal of the advocate briefed to defend the minister of Safety and Security.

They had steeled themselves to recount their horror experiences when the case was set down for hearing from last Wednesday to Friday. But before they could describe their trauma to the court on Wednesday, advocate Joseph Kilani withdrew.

Their experiences could only be briefly sketched on Wednesday when their counsel, advocate Gerrie Roberts SC, outlined their case and a district surgeon described the injuries caused by repeated sodomies perpetrated on Van Wyk and the injuries suffered by Duvenhage.

Kilani admitted that he has only been practising for two-and-a-half years. He did not tell the court why he withdrew, but lawyers said he saw he would not be able to cope. Ranged against him were Roberts, advocate Gerrie van der Walt, attorney Kobus Olivier and Vryheid attorneys.

Judge Nic van der Reyden evinced surprise that the department had not settled the case in view of the facts in the court documents, the bad publicity and the defence’s admissions.

A former commanding officer of the Hlobane police station, Superintendent Isabel Weiss, said Van Wyk and Duvenhage could have been held in other cells instead of being put into a cell with 14 other suspects. He said these included six charged with rape, a man charged with three counts of murder and arson and a man who used a knife during an aggravated assault.

Weiss said that for the charge levelled against Van Wyk and Duvenhage, transporting Van Wyk’s game animals without a licence, they should not have been incarcerated with violent men.

Roberts said the station commander officer slept during the assaults, hourly cell inspections were omitted and inmates sang during the attacks.

Weiss said that when inmates make a noise, especially at night, the police should be alerted.

Roberts said that he will call about seven witnesses to testify.

Van Wyk is claiming R1,2 million and Duvenhage R350 000. Duvenhage has moved to Botswana and incurs the expense of travelling to Pietermaritzburg and losing a salary while away.

Roberts said they will suffer the trauma of having to testify in February hanging over their heads instead of being able to receive the hoped-for closure and go for counselling.

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