Principal appeals jail term for rape

2013-04-15 00:00

THE former principal of Georgedale Primary School, Nhlan­hla Victor Mbongwe (48), has appealed to the high court against his conviction and 18-year jail sentence for raping a 14-year-old pupil in his office at the school on March 17, 2009.

The victim was reportedly a prefect at the school.

High court Judge Fikile Mokgohloa and Acting Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati reserved judgment in the case on Friday.

The trial court at Camperdown accepted the evidence of the teenager, a Grade 7 pupil, that she was raped by Mbongwe in his office after arriving back at the school premises from a field trip to a local textile factory in Hammarsdale on the afternoon in question.

According to the evidence the victim did not report the rape to her grandmother — with whom she was living — on her return home, but had made an entry in her diary to the effect that she was raped and abused by the principal. The entry was allegedly found by her sister about 12 days later.

The girl claimed however that she’d told another teacher about the rape a day after it happened and that he told her not to tell anyone and said he would investigate the matter.

Mbongwe denied that he raped the young girl or that he had sexual intercourse with her. He said she was not on the school premises at the time she alleged she had been raped between 3.30 pm and 4 pm on the day in question.

He said the children who went on the field trip only arrived back at school at about 4.15 pm. He also disputed having a “scar” on his body that was described by the teenager.

Mbongwe’s advocate, P. Prior, attacked the principal’s conviction on grounds that the magistrate had displayed bias towards Mbongwe during the trial and had refused to recuse himself. Alternatively he argued that the magistrate’s findings in the case were patently wrong on a number of grounds.

He said the magistrate had failed to adequately consider that the teen had not reported the incident to her friends, nor her grandmother soon after it happened. State advocate Ian Cooke submitted, however, that the teenager’s explanation for not reporting the rape immediately was understandable. She feared harm if she divulged what had happened; was afraid of not being believed and the principal was in a position of power over her. Her evidence was corroborated by her sister.

Cooke agreed that it was unfortunate that the relevant page of the victim’s diary was not admitted into evidence at the trial.

He submitted further that the teen’s evidence had a “ring of truth” when she testified that Mbongwe had a scar or pigmentation on his body, stating that the appellant had an unusual lesion on his abdomen that was only visible when he was undressed.

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