Uniformed pupils holding candles gathered outside the Durban High Court in South Africa Monday ahead of the trial of four unnamed men, accused of gang-raping 22-year-old Jessica Foord in front of her father. Only 7.6% of all rapists are ever tried in SA..
Accused could not be found...
However, besides the fact that the news media was ordered not to publish the accused adult males' names, there was another strange development Monday: after waiting inside and outside the courtroom until 10.45am the waiting public , including the victim who was scheduled to testify, was told that 'one of the accused men could not be found' and the case postponed until the following day. The gallery crowd was then informed to 'go home & that court would resume tomorrow."
Why can't the accused's names be published?
After the gallery was cleared however, the four adult men charged with the crime -- and whose names are for some reason 'not allowed to be published' although they have pleaded at their previous appearance - appeared on the stand anyway. Ms Foord is expected to testify Tuesday.
The victims' supporters are expected to show up in full force again to protest. see'Forced to kiss his penis'
In the documented indictments filed at the court on Monday, it was revealed that one of the four accused men had allegedly forced the girl to 'kiss his penis', i.e. "... the accused did unlawfully and intentionally sexually violate the complainant... by one of the accused forcing her to kiss his penis without her consent," court papers read.
Exactly one year ago, Foord and her dad Tim were walking their dogs at the Polo Pony Dam in Hillcrest near Durban when five black men allegedly confronted them at gun- and knife point. Foord was repeatedly raped by four of the men while her father was allegedly tied to a tree by the fifth assailant who kept guard. The helpless father was then forced to watch his daughter being raped. One accused, legally a minor, was found guilty of rape and robbery with aggravating circumstances last year and sentenced to 17 years in prison of which part of the sentence would be spent at a juvenile facility.
The girl and her father decided to go public and have raised a large support group around them who are protesting against the country's terrifying rape-epidemic at every one of the court appearances of these men thus far - often with very vociferous protest banners and even displaying a gallows at one event.
The indictment on Monday stated that the four men were charged with robbery with aggravating circumstances, rape and sexual assault "in pursuance of a common purpose".The four men have pleaded not guilty. It's not known why the court won't publish their names.
See our previous stories about the gang-rape youth cult in South Africa here and also here
It is very unusual in South Africa to get anyone tried for rape, and even more unusual to obtain a conviction for rape, says the SA Human Rights Commission. In fact in 2008, only 7.6% of all the reported rapists were caught, tried and sentenced to prison. And the SA Medical Research Council says that only one in every nine women report rape to the police. The only reason that the gang-rape of Ms Foord has gone to trial, is because of their own growing militancy to get the rapists arrested and tried. Both father and daughter have spoken up repeatedly and publicly, and are well-supported by their own community. All want to see justice done. Most rape victims in South Africa, in fact nine out of ten, don't even report the rape to the police.
South Africa is a nation of 47-million people, where sexual violence is on the rise. In 1992 the number of reported rapes and assaults was listed at 42,429. By 2005, the number was up to 55,114. The 'official' police records claim that there has since been a 'dramatic drop' in the number of reported rapes - however this statistic is strongly contested by the SA Medical Research Council's hospital records. The SAPS statistics for 2008 were 6,763 indecent assaults, and 36,190 rapes.
Police refuse to investigate criminal cases?:
This week in another worrying development, John Moodley, a South African lawmaker and member of the Gauteng provincial council for the opposition Democratic Alliance, also warned that he had personal knowledge of two cases over the past two weeks alone, where, police at two seperate police stations in the Johanensburg area had refused to open investigation dockets for violent crime-incidents.
"One case may be a mistake but two cases at two different police stations, raise the suspicion that there is a policy directive at work, " he warned. The first case, reported in The Star newspaper, reported on a mugging in Melville, Johannesburg -- where police refused to allow a case to be opened because the victim "could not describe her attackers properly."
In the second case, he was personally involved. "Recently the daughter of my domestic assistant was robbed of her handbag in similar fashion in Florida . Shelley was on her way home from work when she was confronted by two tsotsies (criminals).
"One of her assailants stabbed her on the top of her left arm. They then grabbed her handbag and ran off. After having her wound stitched at the hospital , Shelley went to the Florida Police Station to report the crime.
"She was told that she could not register the crime as she did not know her attackers.
"The next day, I had my daughter accompany her to the police station -- and they were told to 'come back later that afternoon as the client service center was too busy.That evening, I accompanied Shelley to the police station.
"She was asked what her complaint was and when she told the two student constables about her experience, in my presence she was told that 'they cannot register the case as she was unable to give a positive description of her attackers. I intervened and asked the constable if Shelley's experience was a criminal offence. The reply was yes.
"I then insisted that a criminal case be registered, which was subsequently done.'He said that one has to ask why police are unwilling to open cases. "Perhaps they have been told not to, as it will affect the crime statistics. In which case policing has become about manipulating public perceptions rather than about keeping our people safe." He challenged the province's top lawmaker in charge of security to investigate these cases - and to reveal 'whether police have been told to ignore certain crimes." SEE