Assistant sangoma's rape conviction upheld after he used penis to insert 'ointment' into client

The Western Cape High Court in Cape Town. (Paul Herman, News24)
The Western Cape High Court in Cape Town. (Paul Herman, News24)

Cape Town - A sangoma's assistant convicted of raping a woman during a consultation - by putting "ointment" on his penis to ostensibly remove a blockage affecting her ability to fall pregnant - not only violated the woman’s body, but also her trust, the Western Cape High Court ruled on Friday.

Judge Siraj Desai dismissed Daluxolo Vara's appeal of the conviction and 10-year sentence handed down to him in the Parow Regional Court in September last year.

Vara had maintained that he and the 24-year-old woman had been having an affair.

Vara was found guilty of raping the woman in August 2014 in the steam room at the traditional healer’s Langa premises.

The woman had, in her testimony, said that she had sought assistance as she was cursed and that it had affected her fertility.

When she visited the sangoma's rooms, only Vara had been in.

His job was to assist in the steam room – a shack where a pot of hot liquid was kept and clients were covered in a blanket to absorb the vapour, while naked.

'Pull poison'

After the steaming, the woman testified that she was told to lie on a bed, and that a mirror – or glass - had been placed on her stomach to "pull poison" from her.

Vara apparently told her that something was "blocking [her] inside".

She allowed him to use his finger to insert the ointment into her vagina.

He then said his fingers were too short, and that his penis would be more effective.

She did not object, and the man penetrated her with the muti on his genitals.

The woman, during the act, realised that the man was having sex with her and tried to push him away.

Vara, however, held her down until he ejaculated.

The woman went home and told her mother, who reported the matter to the police.

But Vara remains adamant that he and the woman – both who are in relationships – had been having an affair and that they had had consensual sex after they "chatted and cuddled".

'Trust was violated'

She denied this, saying she hadn’t been a client during the previous month, when Vara said their affair started.

It was a secret, he claimed, because he was not allowed to be involved with clients.

In his ruling, Desai said that, while the woman was a single witness, her evidence was satisfactory, consistent and couldn't be faulted.

"We cannot in these peculiar circumstances find that the complainant consented to sexual intercourse. Maybe she consented to the initial penetration, but it’s patently clear that she, at no stage, consented to sex taking place," he found.

"The complainant's conduct is to be viewed subjectively in the context of her belief that the assistant sangoma and his practices would be able to assist her and the problems she was encountering.

"She was, in this instance, a vulnerable person seeking help from a traditional healer in the belief, humble as it may be, that he could assist her. That trust was violated."

He dismissed the appeal and upheld the trial court conviction and sentence.

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