“I’m taking two types of medication just so I can face each day,” Chantelle Akers from Port Elizabeth tells us. “I’m very upset.”
Chantelle (49) has just learnt that her biological father, Lionel Potgieter, who’s serving a jail sentence for sexual abuse at the St Albans prison near Port Elizabeth, is eligible to apply for parole on 20 March.
Chantelle shared her experience of abuse with YOU magazine in 2018 (I Want My Dad Behind Bars, YOU, 26 July 2018).
Three decades after being abused, she managed to bring herself to lay charges against Potgieter. He’d sexually abused her over a period of six years, starting when she was 11 years old. At 70, he was convicted and sent to jail.
Chantelle struggled for years to work through her traumatic experience and eventually found the strength to lay charges.
“It’s only a year and two months later [since Potgieter was sent to jail] and now he can already apply for parole,” Chantelle said this week.
The department of correctional services notified her of the pending parole application.
YOU spoke to Johan Bence of the St Albans parole board who explained Potgieter was entitled to apply for parole now in terms of a Constitutional Court ruling of 2017. It stipulates that those who committed offences before 1 October 2004 are eligible for parole after serving a third of their sentence.
By November, Potgieter would have served two years of his six-year sentence.
“We realise that victims often feel excluded from the justice system and its processes,” Bence explained in a statement to YOU.
“The victim or their family have the right to be kept informed of the rehabilitation progress of the perpetrator and may participate in the decision making about their eventual release back into society.”
Accordingly, Chantelle is allowed to attend the parole hearing on 20 March.
“I’ve considered attending – but for the sake of my own wellbeing I shouldn’t,” Chantelle told YOU.
She plans to make a written submission to the parole board. “I’m going to do my best to use my words to keep him behind bars,” Chantelle says.
“I fought so hard to get him in jail. It feels as if I’m being forced to repeat the whole painful process,” she adds.
“There are no words for how I feel.”