The Commission for Gender Equality said that the judgement handed down to the convicted “Dros rapist” Nicholas Ninow, is a testament that the courts are cracking down on harsher sentences for perpetrators of violence and abuse against women and children.
It comes after Judge Papi Mosopam handed Ninow life imprisonment and an added five years for possession of drugs, and another five years for defeating the ends of justice.
He appeared in the Pretoria High Court on Thursday, October 17th, and could be seen crying in the stand as family members and witnesses gave their testimonies.
Among those who testified, was his grandmother, Pauline Gericke, who fiercely fought for Ninow not to be labelled a paedophile. Gerick herself sobbed as she apologized to the family of the survivor, having added that he was no longer the child she raised after he had become addicted to drugs. She had also made reference to the alleged abuse he suffered as a child.
His grandmother pleaded with the court to acknowledge that Ninow would not hurt anyone in a sober state. But, according to Judge Mosopam, Ninow had shown “regret” and not any real remorse.
Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, Chairperson Tamara Mathebula, welcomed the judgement and noted that the Commission for Gender Equality is keeping tabs on these cases.
“I think the judgement has demonstrated that our courts can deal decisively with matters of gender-based violence (GBV) and perpetrators. We are quite relieved because this judgement comes immediately after the president of the republic of SA, President Cyril Ramaphosa, called for harsher punishment for gender-based violence.”
The case was among those that received grasped the attention of the media and hence, the public. Mathebula cited the many cases of abused women and young girls that had led to mass protests across the country. These protests had a particular impact on government, who was being criticized for not doing enough to proactively tackle gender-based-violence, nor ensure closure for survivors thereof.
“Media plays a very significant role. You will remember, since August this year, you will find that we have raised awareness on GBV. The media was able to report quite a number of cases and those caused some kind of roar- south Africans were up in arms, they marched against a number of cases.”
“The country was able to know what was happening. We know that in South Africa, a number of cases go unreported and if they are reported, along the way they get thrown out of court because of lack of evidence.”
The concerns of the Commission, much like the sentiment of the public, was that the justice system continuously failed to clamp down on rapist. She said the commission will act as a watch-dog to ensure that cases are handled effectively.
“We’re looking at how we can have plans, among others, to deal with systemic failures that we’ve seen in the past and the courts were one of them. Many cases of GBV were not dealt with decidedly in courts and many cases were not dealt with until completion.”
“We are happy with the expansion of sexual offences court. We have about 50 % courts that are available, but we are looking at expanding them to at least 100 country wide. We want these courts to be accessibly and deal decisively with issues of GBV as well as family and children issues.”
“As the commission, we will monitor with how these courts are dealing with these. We will be friends of the court and ensure that these cases are dealt with, in completion.”
Apart from getting the cases to court, ensuring that there is sufficient evidence to secure convictions has also proven to be problematic. Not only do police stations lack resources, but so do its officers. It follows numerous reports of women being unable to successfully report their rape or being exposed to secondary trauma in their attempts to do so.
“Lack of DNA results, lack of DNA kits at police stations (are among troubling factors.) as the commission, we have actually gone out and looked at different police stations in the country and we have seen how these DNA kits are not available. Both for adults as well as for children. Can you imagine, in the case of a 7-year-old, if there was no DNA test Kit at the station? This case wouldn’t have seen light of day,” said Mathebula.
The spokesperson noted meetings with the policing sector, that had in attendance national police Commissioner Bheki Cele. Cele had last week, also noted that police need to be adequately trained.
“We had these meeting where we were talking about working together. We will look at the curriculum of the police, so we incorporate dealing with gbv more effectively. They need to actually go out for more courses. “
“We need to look at police stations in terms of how they register domestic violence and gbv cases. Sometimes they’re registered as crime or many a times, victims are sent back home, to say that “no, this is between yourself and your partner” or between “a wife and a husband”. SO, we should not encourage police to turn people away.”
The old age saying, “prevention is better than cure”, was a sentiment South Africans shared during dozens of pickets against GBV in August and September. Picketers had used signs and took to social media to call on young men to be steadfast leaders and protect women instead of branding them as objects not worthy of respect.
Mathebula explained that police need to be more proactive to prevent instances of severe abuse, or murder.
“Police would give women a protection order to give to the perpetrator. We have witnessed many women dying with protection orders in their bag. Police should accompany woman or just deliver it themselves.”
“Police need to have a relationship with the shelters in South Africa. If they feel a woman was really suffering from domestic or GBV, they should take these women to shelter houses as protection.”
The Pretoria high court had also ruled that Ninow will not be able to work with children and his name will appear in the sexual offenders’ register. The commission welcomed this, having said that this identifies him to the rest of the world.
“We are satisfied that about the sexual offences register and that Ninow will be added to it. So that we know the people that are first time offenders, repeat offender… and the repeat offenders need to be given more harsher sentences, I think a lot of South Africans that the one life sentence was not enough.”
“These people we will know them (rapists) from now on- the register must be made public so that schools and everyone else must know who the perpetrators are.”