Woman sues criminal rehab body

2010-06-15 00:00

NEWCASTLE businesswoman Bernice Clark has welcomed an effective 25-year jail sentence imposed last week on James Mabaso, one of two men who attacked and critically injured her in February 2006.

However, Clark — who was vice chairperson of the SPCA and an executive member of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce at the time — has vowed to continue with her civil law- suit against criminal rehabilitation organisation Khulisa, at whose behest she offered Mabaso employment at her nursery in Newcastle in September 2005.

Five months later Mabaso and an accomplice, Sibusiso Sokhela, shot and critically injured her during an armed robbery at her home.

She maintains in papers filed in the high court in Pietermaritzburg that Khulisa failed to inform her that Mabaso had been convicted of murdering his wife with a machete and was a “classic psychopath displaying very clever manipulative tendencies while harbouring violent tendencies”.

Instead, she claims, she was told by a Khulisa staffer that Mabaso’s previous conviction stemmed from “relatively minor criminal activity”.

Khulisa is defending the civil action.

Clark told The Witness in a telephone interview yesterday there are times when she relives the horror of her ordeal when she was ambushed at her home by Mabaso and Sokhela.

“I can’t tell you how frightening it was,” she said.

Clark said she fought back and while Sokhela held her legs, Mabaso stood on her head, kicked her in the head, face and stomach and shot her in the neck. The men robbed her of a pouch she wore around her waist.

Clark said she saw a bush knife in one of the attackers’ hands, and when she saw the blood she thought she’d been cut. It later emerged she had been shot in the neck.

“The amount of blood flowing from my neck was just unbelievable,” she said, clearly emotional.

Clark never expected to be able to speak again as it was thought her vocal cords had been irreversibly damaged, but when the swelling in her throat subsided she “miraculously” found she could talk.

She spent almost two weeks in intensive care following the attack.

While Sokhela pleaded guilty soon after the attack (and is also serving an effective 25-year jail sentence), Mabaso pleaded not guilty, she said.

He fired a number of his attorneys, resulting in a delay of more than four years to finalise his trial.

“It is such a relief to know that I do not need to face him physically ever again,” she said yesterday.

Clark said Mabaso showed no remorse.

She said that although the motive was primarily robbery, she believes Mabaso also wanted revenge because she complained about his “delinquent” conduct to Khulisa and refused to re-employ him after he had “absconded” during the brief period he worked for her.

Newcastle regional court magistrate Jan Venter sentenced Mabaso to a total of 37 years’ imprisonment, 12 years of which were ordered to run concurrently.


KHULISA managing director Lesley-Ann van Selm said yesterday she has been advised by the organisation’s attorneys not to make any public comments ahead of the pending civil case.

Soon after Clark was shot, Khulisa said in a statement published in the local newspaper that the incident was the first of its kind since Khulisa was founded in 1997.

“James Bheki Mabaso had an impressive record with Khulisa following his incarceration and he even received a trophy for his participation in our programme in 2003. It was on this basis that he was recommended for employment with Bernice Clark,” Van Selm was quoted as having said at the time.

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