Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre

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Alleged Gang Rape Of 17 year-old female prisoner, February 2007 (Volksrust)

TLAC wrote to the Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula and the National Commissioner of Police Jackie Selebi, demanding an official response to the alleged gang-rape of a female prisoner at Volksrust police station on the night of 17 February 2007. 21 February 2007 ATTENTION: The Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula Fax number: (012) 393-2812/ (021) 467-7036 The National Commissioner of Police, Jackie Selebi Fax Number: (012) 393-1530 Dear Minister Nqakula and Commissioner Selebi Alleged gang rape of female prisoner in Volksrust police cells We are writing to express our horror and outrage at the alleged rape by six men of a woman detained over the weekend of 17 February in the cells at Volksrust police station. From information supplied in the media it would seem that this rape resulted from the violation of a number of police standing orders applicable to the detention of persons, not least of which is the international norm stipulating that male and female prisoners must be held separately from one another. Further, we understand that because the Volksrust station commissioner had scheduled raids to take place on the night, no hourly inspections of the cells were carried out, as is standard protocol, leaving the woman to be raped repeatedly. We also understand that apparently no lights were working in the cells, again, contrary to regulations - allegedly making it difficult for the police officer to see that men were in the cell. Given the high levels of sexual violence in South Africa, which the police have committed themselves to reducing, it is most concerning that these particular police officials, tasked with protecting the public, appear to have created the circumstances facilitating a gang rape in state custody. As civil society organizations dedicated to combating violence against women, and in the absence of a formal statement on the part of the police service responding to this allegation, we ask you to provide, in writing, answers to the following questions: In light of the seriousness of this allegation, what immediate disciplinary action has been taken by the police against the officials concerned, including the station commissioner? Further, we understand from an interview conducted 21 February on 702 with a representative of the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) that these members have not been suspended from duty as yet. Please could you explain why this step has not been taken. We understand from the same 702 interview that the six men alleged to have raped the woman have not as yet been charged. What is the reason for this delay? What kind of support and assistance have the police provided to the woman concerned? Was she taken for an examination and was she provided with post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) both to prevent pregnancy and HIV? Has she been provided with any counseling or psychological assistance? We understand that the woman was arrested for allegedly being drunk. We fail to understand why her intoxication led to her arrest so please advise us of the specific crime that led to her detention. Further, has she also been charged in court with this offence? Or have charges against her been withdrawn? Finally, we have not as yet heard an official comment from either of your offices regarding this incident. Please could you inform us what stance the Ministry and Commissioner’s Office takes on incidents of this nature. We look forward to receiving your response at the earliest possible opportunity. Yours sincerely Lisa Vetten Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre Endorsed By: AIDS Law Project (ALP) Cape Town Rape Crisis Trust Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) Ekupholeni Trauma Centre KwaZulu-Natal Network on Violence Against Women Men as Partners Molo Songololo Mosaic Training, Service and Healing Centre for Women OUT LGBT Well-being Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task Force (SWEAT) Thusanang Advice Centre Western Cape Network on Violence Against Women Women and Men Against Child Abuse Cc The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Safety and Security The MEC for Safety and Security, Mpumalanga

Response from the Provincial Commissioner of Mpumalanga on the Alleged Gang Rape of Female Prisoner

The Provincial Commissioner of Mpumalanga, O S Khumalo advised TLAC that the following steps have been taken by his office: The six members were charged on the day that the incident was reported;
  • They have been suspended from duty;
  • They appeared in court on 19 February and a formal bail application took place on 5 March;
  • The rape survivor received medical attention as soon as the incident was reported;
  • She has not yet received counseling but there is a process underway to ensure that she has access to psycho-social support;
  • She was charged with being drunk in public and fined R50.

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