As the nation recognised International Women’s Day on Monday, gender-based violence activists picketed outside the Queenstown magistrate’s court to oppose bail for a man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend, an incident that was reportedly witnessed by the couple’s six-year-old daughter.
The man who appeared before court on a continued bail application is said to have physically assaulted his girlfriend on the night of February 7 in Enkululekweni, allegedly with a hammer, which resulted in her death at Frontier Hospital.
During court proceedings the investigating officer took to the stand and opposed the release of the accused, stating that he would endanger the six-year-old child who already made a statement, that he was likely to influence the witnesses and that he would disturb public peace and order. “When I spoke to the child she said she was afraid of the father and that he must not come out. She said it was not the first time that he had abused the mother and she was there to witness it.” The investigator read out a memorandum issued by Enkululekweni resident and the ANC Women’s League which opposed the release of the accused. He also indicated that the children were living with their maternal grandmother and that they were safe and living happily in the absence of the accused.
The defence attorney, however, submitted that there was no history that the client had been violent or tried to influence the witness and that it was pure speculation from the investigating officer’s side. She further stated that no threats had been made by the applicant towards the community and that outrage by the community could infringe on the applicant’s constitutional rights.
It was also revealed that the alleged weapon used in the incident has not been sent in for forensic testing and that it would take about two months to obtain results. With the accused having been in custody since February 9 the defence argued that this would be prejudicial to the client.
The state prosecutors said the only reason why the applicant should be released on bail was that he wanted to be with his children. He said that reason was disputed by evidence of the investigating officer that the children were now living under better circumstances.
“One of the children indicated that the father must not be released. We know that violence against women and children is discouraged by the government. There was a huge protest last Friday and we do not know what might happen. The release will not be in the interests of justice considering that his life will not be safe,” stated the prosecutor in his argument.
Nongazi Magwashu, who was part of the ANC Women’s League, was there to oppose bail. Reading out the memorandum handed over in court, Nongazi said: “Thousands of women and men across the country are raising their voices in outrage, saying this must end. Every day women are killed, raped and brutalised, not by monsters, but by the men whom we share our beds and homes with. We are tired of being killed and brutalised at the hands of men. We call for an end to the senseless violence unleashed on women’s bodies. These cases show that we are still a very long way from eradicating gender-based violence in South Africa. The victim was pregnant and this man did not care about that and the two babies who will never see their mother again. The judiciary, prosecutors and law enforcement must intervene in these cases of violence against women and girls with gender sensitivity and awareness. We want effective justice now, not tomorrow.”
Nomzamo community leader Mnqophiso Naye added that women should feel safe around men and condemned acts of violence against women. “In the name of men, we say no bail for the accused. He must remain in prison and for justice to prevail.”
Friend of the victim Sandiswa Mavango who was at the couple’s home during a get-together on the day of the ordeal and who was not aware of the pregnancy told The Rep reporter that the accused was known to be violent towards his partner, recalling an incident a while back when the accused allegedly tried to burn a shack they were in at Ezibeleni.
“We were all sitting together drinking that night. An issue involving money that was supposed to buy home essentials that she (victim) had apparently spent on the alcohol we were drinking was raised. Her phone then disappeared and as we were looking for it we discovered that he (accused) had taken the phone and placed it somewhere in the house. We saw that a fight was brewing, but my friend and I left. We were informed that our friend (the victim) had been assaulted by him and was in a serious condition in hospital.”
She said she had confronted the accused for details of what had transpired, when he confessed to having had an altercation and physically assaulting the victim after she had spent the money. “When I went to visit her in hospital, she was in a coma. We were told she had serious head injuries and I could see there was no hope. I want him to stay behind bars until he is sentenced because our fear is that he might do something to his own child who gave a statement. ”
The accused was remanded in custody and will appear on Monday to hear his fate.