Parolee attacks woman aged 94
Less than a month after he stepped out of prison, a beneficiary of President Jacob Zuma's special remissions programme allegedly raped a 94-year-old woman in front of her great-grandchildren.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman Vincent Mdunge confirmed the arrest of the 30-year-old man, an habitual criminal, and said he was one of 3,150 inmates released in the province as part of the president's prisoner release on Freedom Day.
According to relatives of the rape victim, the assailant kicked down the door of the dilapidated rondawel of the 94-year-old woman in Swayimane, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, on Monday night.
He is alleged to have raped her in front of her two great-grandsons, aged 7 and 12.
The woman's cousin, who lives in the house next to hers, said the man had tried to knock down her door but had failed.
"I was shocked when one of her great-grandsons called me in the morning and said, 'Come and see what he did to gogo'.
"The older boy told me they were unable to lock the door so they decided to put two bricks [in place] so that it could not be opened. But he managed to get in and raped her," she said.
"The children were on the same bed while he was raping her."
The woman has fled her home of many years out of fear and shame.
Her cousin said the victim had told her that the rapist had called her by name throughout the attack.
Mdunge said a man who lives in the area was arrested on Tuesday.
- The suspect, who had been convicted of robbery and sentenced to six months in prison, has had a criminal history since childhood, and that his own grandmother had refused to sign his prison release forms.
"The official said he could not leave him on the street, but I refused to sign that I was accepting him because I didn't want him in my yard, let alone in my house," the man's grandmother said yesterday.
"He never slept here. I heard that he was sleeping in the bush or in unoccupied houses in the area," she said.
Mdunge said police believed the suspect committed the rape with the intention "solely of going back to prison".
"His family disowned him and he had nowhere else to go. We believe that he committed the crime to return to prison because that is his only home," he said.
The suspect's grandmother said she felt the need to apologise for his actions: "I can't explain the feeling. I am hurt for what he did to such an old person. I pray and beg the authorities to sentence him to life imprisonment because he is nothing but trouble".
"He would be arrested and released. I was so fed up with him that, when he was sentenced to six months for robbery, I wished it was six life sentences."
- On Freedom Day, in April, Zuma announced special remissions of sentence for prisoners and parolees.
Of the 44,985 prisoners released nationally, 101 have been re-arrested, said Estelle Coetzee, spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services.
"Sixty-nine were arrested for economic crimes, 25 for aggressive crimes, three for sexual crimes and four for narcotics," she said.
"Twenty-two of them re-offended and were sentenced. Of the 79 alleged re-offenders, one committed suicide while in custody, 21 were released by the courts, two paid bail and 55 became remand detainees in the care of Correctional Services again."
Coetzee said all released prisoners were subjected to a pre-release programme aimed at preventing them from offending again.
The department was unaware of the rape case, she said. However if the suspect were found guilty he would have to serve the remainder of his six-month sentence as well as the new sentence imposed on him.
- Unisa department of police practice Professor Rudolph Zinn said criminological studies in South Africa showed that criminals start by committing lesser crimes and go on to commit violent crimes.
"It is concerning. The recurrence of people committing crime when they are released from prison is very high," he said. "We see that in the majority of people released.
"We should further test the issues of rehabilitation within prison, make sure that the person you are going to release is a changed person and that the chances of that person recommitting a crime are reduced. If we can't have a system like that any pardoning or letting people out of the system early is just high risk."
University of KwaZulu-Natal law professor Karthy Govender said the Department of Correctional Services had a constitutional and legal duty to ensure that people who were a danger were not released prematurely.
"If it breaches that legal responsibility then it might be civilly liable," he said.
Correctional Services ministerial spokesman Logan Maistry said the rehabilitation of prisoners was everyone's responsibility.
"As a department, we are doing everything possible to ensure rehabilitation of offenders. However, correction of offenders is a societal responsibility. We are calling all sectors of society to partner with us in our mandate to rehabilitate prisoners. One re-offender is one too many," he said.