The rape of South African women is one of the highest in the world. This is attributed to the fact that over the years there has been an increase in reports of sexual abuse against women in the country. There have been infamous cases of rape as well as those who didn’t get the necessary media attention. Regardless of the public attention however, it is safe to say that the rape pandemic in South Africa is large.
There is also however, a side to rape that is very often overlooked. As much as it is understood and agreed that the act of rape is one of the most sensitive to talk about, it also needs to be acknowledged and accepted that there are cases of rape that have been dealt with unfairly, and in this case, unfairly towards the perpetrator and not the victim. The reality of the situation comes down to the fact that there a number of men who have been unfairly accused and charged of rape, who have served time and gone through the behavioural corrective procedures when in fact they did not deserve it. This article aims to highlight such instances, giving an alternative look at the highly sensitive, serious and important topic.
Because of the severity of the rape crime, some convictions can result in a perpetrator being imprisoned for life, others aren’t as severe as life imprisonment but the years in jail are still many. The case of Njabulo Ndlovu, a 35 year old man from Durban is an example. Ndlovu spent 13 years in prison after being convicted for a rape he did not commit. A rape victim alleged that she had been gang raped by ten men in Umlazi, Kwazulu-Natal. Ndlovu and four others were taken to trial, three of the suspects were acquitted as there was not enough evidence against them but Ndlovu and another co-accused were handed life sentences. Ndlovu was a second year law student at the University of Kwazulu-Natal at the time of his conviction. He managed to finish his law degree in prison. He was released in 2018 after his friend and also advocate, Andile Magubane, helped him clear his name. Njabulo declared his innocence from the beginning and is not bitter by his experience but wants judges to ‘use evidence instead of their feelings.’
A second example is that of a 36-year-old Nigerian man based in Sandton who was accused of rape by a 28-year-old lady he met at a club in Johannesburg. The two of them left the club together and engaged in sexual activity, in the morning she demanded money from him and when he refused to give it to her she proceeded to open a case of rape against him. The accused said, ‘I was horrified at the sight of seeing police men knocking at my door and I was even more shocked when I was arrested for a rape I did not commit.’ He explains that as a foreign national he is at a disadvantage when residing in a country other than Nigeria, especially in matters that involve the law. His matter was cleared when the lady in question phoned his friends demanding money for her to drop the charges. One of the friends Michael, managed to record the telephone call and used that as evidence at the police station. The accused says that he got lucky and will never sleep with a woman he doesn’t thoroughly know again, “This experience has taught me to be very observant of the characters I surround myself with as only God knows where I could have ended up”.
There are many more cases of innocent people being convicted of crimes they did not commit, the unfortunate part is that not all of them get declared innocent. With the severity that the act of rape possesses, it is unfortunate that some use it as a tool to hurt, manipulate and destroy innocent peoples’ lives. Advocate Nosindiso Jonas explains that, “The accused can sue the state and the ministry for an unlawful arrest and conviction, they can claim the damages they would have suffered as a result of the arrest”.
There is no dispute that those who commit the horrendous crime of rape need to be dealt with as per the laws of the justice system and by no means is the act of rape something that should be protected. Perpetrators however, need to be charged based on evidence that proves them guilty.