Adv. Gerrie Nel, Head of AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, and his team appeared in the Somerset East Regional Court today on behalf of Celeste Gouws, rape survivor and private prosecutor. The case was postponed for trial until 23 to 26 March 2021, as the accused indicated that he wanted to acquire the services of either Adv. Dali Mpofu or Adv. Tembeka Ngcukaitobi. The accused stands trial on one charge of rape and a charge of burglary with the aim to rape.
This follows the refusal of the Director of Public Prosecution in the Eastern Cape to institute prosecution against the accused. The victim was allegedly raped in her house in September 2017. Adv. Nel opposed the application for postponing the hearing, because today’s date had already been set. He argued that no accused has an unimpeded right to specific legal representatives, and that is was time for the courts to uplift the rights of victims and society in cases of gender-based violence to be at least equal to the rights of the accused. Adv. Nel also argued that vulnerable members of society should be able to depend on the courts to protect their rights.
The case was referred to AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit after a lawyer in the town and a female friend of Gouws received no answer to her queries as to why no criminal steps had been taken against the accused.
“Despite a prima facie case and the fact that the victim had immediately laid charges against him, the accused was never arrested for the alleged crime. The only conclusion that we can come to in terms of die DOP’s refusal to prosecute is that the accused is receiving preferential treatment because of certain connections. AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit was indeed established to ensure that everybody is equal before the law and is prosecuted for their crimes – notwithstanding their own or their family’s status in society. It is shameful that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) does not view its undertaking – to treat cases of gender-based violence seriously – with more gravity, and that this victim had to suffer the secondary trauma of knowing that the NPA refused to prosecute the accused,” says Andrew Leask, Head Investigator at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit.