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Gender activists oppose parole for Dr Omar Sabadia

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Two NGOS working with abused women says it strongly opposes parole to Dr Omar Sabadia, convicted of killing his wife in 1996. Dr Sabadia was supposed to be released on parole this week – after serving only 20 years of a 50-year sentence. His wife Zahida went missing in February 1996 and her body was found 22 days later, tied to a tree in Ga-Rankuwa.

Her husband led a team of detectives to the spot where she was killed after he had made a confession. It emerged that Sabadia, a well-known psychiatrist at the time, had hired three hit men to murder his wife.

During that time, activists from the Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development visited the crime scene a few days after she was discovered and found the stench of her dead body still very fresh. During the court case, members of the Nisaa Institute protested outside the Pretoria High court, calling for the harshest punishment possible. Dr Sabadia was handed down a 50 year sentence.

Dr Sabadia applied for parole three times, which was declined twice prior. His children, who very young at the time of the murder, actually objected to him being released, but for the third parole attempt, they were not invited to the parole meeting. It is standard practice for the victims directly affected by a crime to be part of the parole consultations.

While the matter is now pending a decision from the parole review board, the Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development and the National Shelter Movement have added their objections to those of the family and their legal counsel, against his possible parole at this time.

Nisaa’s executive director, Zubeda Dangor says that she is satisfied that this matter is under review, adding that his release would send the wrong message to women and would-be offenders alike.

“If perpetrators of violent crimes against women are let off easily, it sends a damning message about the value of women in this country, especially when murderers have shown no remorse for the crimes they have committed,” said Dangor.

“Too many women are dying at the hands of their partners in South Africa – which has one of the highest rates of femicide in the world. With statistics such as ours, where preventative interventions seem to have insufficient impact, punishment should be swift and its severity should serve as a deterrent to others.”

“This is just one story, but a story that could have a number of far-reaching implications. This man robbed his children of a mother and her family of their loved one, and he is yet to apologize for this. By granting him parole, especially so soon, the system not only devalues the woman whose life he took, but also devalues the pain and suffering of this family,” Dangor added.

“The justice system is already lacking when it comes to prioritising the needs of abused women and children. If our men are not able to restrain themselves, then we should be able to rely on the system to hold them accountable and deliver a suitable punishment, which should be served to the maximum extent,” said Joy Lange from the National Shelter Movement.

“The need for an effective National Development Plan for the protection of women has never been more urgent. The legal system must consider the reality of the situation for women in this country, more thoroughly. We not only need to feel safe. We also need justice for those who were not protected,” concludes Lange.

Both Dangor and Lange agree that if abuse is reported early, then shelters can play a more constructive role in protecting women. This way, the country’s femicide statistics need not be so staggering.

“In addition to this, in a meeting last month, Cabinet strongly condemned violence against women and children, and call on all South Africans to act against violence,” concluded Dangor.



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