Court feud bodes ill for sex victims

2012-07-14 17:33

Suspended magistrate’s cases may have to be reheard

Victims of brutal sexual offences – including a 69-year-old grandmother and an eight-year-old girl – could be forced to face their tormentors in court for a second time and relive their personal hells.

This is despite a National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Christmas function held for some of the victims where they were given bravery certificates and assured they could move on with their lives.

The Northern Cape High Court will next month decide if 26 pending cases before suspended magistrate Pumelele Hole – including rape, attempted rape and sexual assault cases involving 17 children between the ages of three and 17 – should be set aside and tried again, from scratch.

If the order is granted, at least nine of these victims will have to relive details of their rapes in court testimony and face cross-examination by lawyers.

This state of affairs was caused by a bitter personal feud that goes back to September 2009 between Hole and the Kimberley regional court president Khandilizwe Nqadala.

Both laid complaints against one another at the Magistrates’ Commission.

According to NPA records City Press has seen, the cases pending before Hole – who presided over sexual offence cases before being suspended in December – include:

»?An “extremely traumatised” 69-year-old woman who sustained serious and lasting head injuries when she was thrown into an opencast mining pit and raped;

»?The rape of a 64-year-old woman in “very poor health”. The police officer first on the scene testified that she “could not walk after the attack and crawled to her house”;

»?A man accused of raping two seven-year-olds, and sexually assaulting three others between the ages of six and nine;

»?The rape and assault of a 17-year-old boy who was “trying to be strong, but is shattered, ashamed and disgusted”; and

»?The rape of an eight-year-old who was groomed by the accused.

The pending court case to set aside the partly heard trials has caused officials from Legal Aid SA and the NPA to beg Northern Cape Judge President Frans Kgomo and the Magistrates’ Commission for a special review of the matter.

In a memorandum dated June?1, officials asked that Hole’s “suspension be uplifted and (he) only be allowed to return to finalise his partly heard matters”.

The letter states that the lawyers believe the magistrate remains a “fit and proper person” until his disciplinary matter is finalised.

“It appears the suspension of Mr Hole was not based on judicial incompetence but rather on other issues,” the letter said.

Central to the dispute between Nqadala and Hole is the fact that their relationship deteriorated to such an extent that Hole subpoenaed Nqadala to explain himself in a criminal court trial.

Hole claimed Nqadala had written a note to Hole about a criminal trial before Hole in which he said an accused, “despite being the youngest of them all, is the gang leader”.

According to Hole’s charge sheet, which City Press has obtained, he displayed an abuse of power by, among others, asking Mr Nqadala if he agreed that he was a “disgrace to the profession”.

While Hole was suspended last December, his complaint against Nqadala remains unfinalised by the Magistrates Commision.

Nqadala asked the high court for Hole’s cases to be set aside, and refused a request to allow Hole to finish them.

Danie Schoeman, secretary of the Magistrates’ Commission, declined to comment on a matter before court, but said the commission was close to finalising the investigation into the complaint against Nqadala.

The department of justice did not respond to questions.

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