A 16-year-old boy from Komani Park who pleaded guilty to 10 counts of rape and two counts of compelled rape late last year, changed his statement at the Queenstown magistrate’s court on Tuesday, admitting to only one count of rape.
The Rep reported (Young boy accused of multiple rapes October 10, 2016) that a teenager, who may not be named as he is under age, was accused of raping 21 young children in the Komani Park area, some under the age of 10, with charges dating back to May 2016.
The boy, who was 13 when he committed the offences, pleaded guilty and was convicted on September 27, 2019 on 10 counts of rape and two counts of compelled rape. He appeared before magistrate Lungi Mahlathi on November 6, 2019 for pre-sentencing reports. The matter was postponed to January 14, 2020.
The accused returned to the dock on Tuesday when magistrate Mahlathi confirmed that the required reports and a probation report from social workers had been presented. Defence attorney, Thandikhaya Bashe, requested his withdrawal from the case on the basis of what is contained in one of the reports, especially the probation report.
Legal representative, Bashe, asked the court to accept his withdrawal as the legal representative because “the report is in complete conflict and contrast following a consultation and interview with the accused. When we commenced with trial you (accused) pleaded guilty to a list of charges against you and that is what your legal representative presented in court and the last page of the report was signed by you. You pleaded guilty to all 12 charges and, according to the indictment, you admitted to all the charges. You now, however, admit one charge of rape. It cannot be denied that this is in complete contrast to what you admitted in court.”
“On ethical grounds, Bashe withdrew from the case. He ethically cannot continue representing you,” explained Mahlathi.
Mahlathi accepted the withdrawal, indicating that Bashe had an obligation to do so. “This is not the end of the matter. This is a serious case involving you as a child offender. This court will not allow you to stand without any legal representative.”
State prosecutor Sibusiso Mgenge said he was not in a position to oppose the application. The matter was remanded to Wednesday for the accused to apply for legal aid.
Parents of the victims poured out their frustration in the courtroom after consulting with the state prosecutor before the proceedings started on Tuesday. Reacting to the news, one parent said: “We were told that today we would proceed with the sentencing. Now things have changed. The case will be prolonged again. This has been going on since 2016. How do we explain this to our children?”
“Our role as parents is to protect our children from harm. How do I tell my grandchild this has happened and I, as a parent, cannot do anything about it. This is traumatising our children. The law is failing us,” said one of the emotional parents.
As the court reconvened on Wednesday, magistrate Mahlathi postponed the matter to February 5 to allow for the new defence to acquaint themselves with the dockets and reports on the case.