NPA to appeal school patroller's sexual assault and rape acquittal

The state intends to appeal against the acquittal of a former school patroller who was accused of sexually abusing children at a Soweto primary school.
The state intends to appeal against the acquittal of a former school patroller who was accused of sexually abusing children at a Soweto primary school.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The National Prosecuting Authority says it will appeal against the acquittal of a former scholar patroller at a Soweto school who was accused of multiple rapes and sexual assaults of young children.

Johannes Molefe, 58, was arrested in October last year and had been facing three counts of rape and 11 of sexual assault for allegedly sexually harassing more than 80 girls aged between five and 13 at the AB Xuma Primary School in Orlando.

Molefe abandoned his bail bid last year, fearing for his safety.

Most of the young girls testified during the trial at the South Gauteng High Court, sitting at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court, that Molefe had touched their private parts. However, he denied the allegation.

One of the victims told the court that she had developed a bladder infection after the incident, allegedly caused by the former school guard.

However, in finding Molefe not guilty on Wednesday, acting judge Peet Johnson described the trial as a "comedy of errors".

The judge said the manner in which the teachers, police and the Teddy Bear Clinic handled the children had contaminated the case.

"I have no doubt that the children influenced each other one way or another," Johnson said.

In a statement on Thursday, NPA South Gauteng spokesperson Abram Mohlatlole said the appeal would be based on the grounds that the verdict was unreasonable and could not be validated by substantial evidence.

"The NPA strives to render a victim-centric service and continues the fight against violence aimed at women and children," Mohlatlole said.

However, there are limited options available to the prosecution following the acquittal of an accused.

The Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 states that that the prosecution can take a matter on appeal only when there is a question over the manner in which the law was applied.

Section 319 of the act states that if any question of law arises in a trial in the high court, that court may of its own motion or at the request either of the prosecutor or the accused, reserve that question for the consideration of the Appellate Division.

This approach by the prosecution was adopted in the case of Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, who in September 2014 was found not guilty by the high court in Pretoria of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013, but of culpable homicide.

Contending that the trial court erred on certain legal issues, the director of public prosecutions, with leave of the high court, appealed to the SCA on questions of law reserved, arguing that the appropriate conviction would be one of murder.

In December 2015, the SCA ruled in favour of the prosecution on the questions of law. The SCA set aside the culpable homicide conviction and replaced it with that of murder.

Mohlatlole said the statistics in the South Gauteng High Court showed the conviction rate for sexual offences was 85.2%, which was 15.2% above the national target.

He said this was evidence that prosecutors were working tirelessly to decrease the scourge.

"During the period April to November 2018, 27 sexual offence cases, including 13 involving serial rapists, were finalised in the (South Gauteng) High Court," he said.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X