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Tell police minister to drop appeal: rape victim's challenge to Ramaphosa

A rape victim who successfully sued police for not properly investigating her attack has challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa to get police to drop their appeal against the judgment . File photo.
A rape victim who successfully sued police for not properly investigating her attack has challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa to get police to drop their appeal against the judgment . File photo.
Image: TimesLIVE

A Johannesburg businesswoman who survived a 15-hour rape ordeal and successfully sued the police for failing to properly investigate her attack, has challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa to get the police ministry to drop their appeal against her court victory.

The challenge by Andy Kawa was made days after Ramaphosa, facing a blistering attack by gender and women rights activists protesting in Cape Town, promised that rape and sexual violence cases that were not properly investigated would be reviewed.

This week's protests and Ramaphosa's subsequent promises followed the arrest of a Cape Town post office worker for the assault, rape and murder of 19-year-old University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana and the murders of professional boxing champion Leighandre "Baby Lee" Jegels, 25, and karate champion Angelique Clark-Abrahams, 25.

Jegels was allegedly killed by her boyfriend, police sergeant Bulelani Manyakama, while Clark-Abrahams was raped and attacked by a man who was close to her. Clark-Abrahams died in hospital. All three women were from East London.

In December 2010 while in Port Elizabeth, Kawa was abducted, attacked and raped for 15 hours at Kings Beach while out for a walk. Her attackers were never caught although officers arrested two men for being in possession of her clothes and property which they had stolen from her car.

In a scathing judgment in November 2018, following Kawa's eight-year court battle against the police, Port Elizabeth Judge Sarah Sephton found police officers were "grossly negligent" in the performance of their duties in that they had failed to conduct a proper search for her after she was reported missing, and that once found they were negligent in investigating her attack.

Sephton slammed the investigating officer for not following up CCTV footage and DNA evidence or ensuring that potential suspects were questioned. She said that had the search been conducted properly, Kawa's attack would have ended hours earlier as police would have found her.

Kawa managed to escape her attackers when she eventually broke free.

Sephton also criticised how the state could claim that Kawa brought on her psychological health issues by launching the law suit against the police, stating that the attack caused the majority of the psychiatric illnesses Kawa was diagnosed with. She held that the police ministry be responsible for her legal costs.

The police ministry has lodged an appeal against the ruling which will be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal on October 4.

Kawa said the appeal made it clear that the police minister and the president were not speaking the same language.

"The president has said he will get the police to investigate cases that were not properly investigated and ensure that the police are held accountable for poorly investigated cases. In my case the judgment clearly stated that the police were negligent in their investigation into my rape, yet the police minister is appealing the ruling.

"The police minster's motivation for appealing is that it will open the floodgates for other such cases. Instead of worrying about the floodgates being opened, the police should be worrying about fixing how cases are investigated, getting cases ready for trial and ensuring that cases are strong enough to be successfully prosecuted."

She said many cases were rejected by the courts because of poor, or a lack of, evidence.

"The gathering of evidence is where the police's responsibilities lie. It's clear that the police are not appealing on legal grounds in my case but on the sentiment that more people will push for police to properly investigate their cases.

"Following the president's announcement I am asking that he look at this appeal and decide whether this is something that he really wants to go ahead. The police minister is wasting taxpayers' money defending my poorly investigated case when that money could be better spent on training police officers to investigate cases properly.

"If you are serious, Mr President, about doing something, start by reviewing my case and withdraw your appeal.  Then we can all start believing that you and your ministers sincerely believe that enough is enough."