The alleged sexual assault of two Grade 3 girls by an investigator from the SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit – who was preparing them to testify in court against their first attacker – is a grave violation of trust. By BHEKI SIMELANE.
The community of Orlando and many South Africans are outraged after a police forensic investigator was accused of sexually assaulting two Grade 3 pupils from the AB Xuma Primary School in Soweto. The incident is believed to have happened on Monday while the high-ranking officer, said to be a police captain, was preparing the girls to testify against a 57-year-old scholar patrol man who was charged with sexually assaulting them and 87 other girls at the school last year.
Questions have since emerged around why a sexual assault case of a female child would be investigated by a male officer, but director of clinical services at the Teddy Bear Clinic, Dr Shaheda Omar, warned that women were also capable of committing sexual assault acts.
“Females also sexually abuse, but this is a classical example of an opportunistic sexual predator using the setting where he has access to children,” Omar said.
Omar said the incident had sparked a massive trust issue. She called it a “gross form of violation”. She said law enforcement agencies had failed the children who needed their protection.
“The themes of betrayal, trust, and deceit have engulfed these children’s lives,” said Omar, adding that this will most certainly impact on the pupil’s journey to healing.
“It will now be more difficult or impossible for children to trust persons in positions of power or authority, including the counsellors. This has resulted in secondary trauma and victimisation of the children,” said Omar.
The incident has once again called into question the screening of individuals working with children, with Omar saying this was not rigorous or adequate.
Omar said the clinic would continue working with the school community.
“This is going to be a very difficult process but, because we have established a relationship with the children since last year, we will continue to assist them and provide debriefing in respect of the latest incident,” she said.
The Gauteng Department of Education has condemned the incident, saying it was shocked that it had been committed by such a high-ranking official in the police.
The department’s spokesman, Steve Mabona, said the department’s social services team had visited the school to support the learners and would remain at the school for the rest of the week. Mabona said the department will rely on the police for the way forward.
But, he said, “It’s embarrassing when you hear that such allegations have been perpetrated by a high-ranking police official.”
In a statement on Wednesday, the police noted the seriousness of the allegations but asked to be given space to investigate the matter. Feedback would be given at an appropriate time.
“These allegations are quite serious so we therefore wish to assure all parties concerned that the matter is receiving the necessary attention as a matter of priority. This is also a very sensitive matter as it involves minors, and therefore needs to be handled with utmost caution,” Lieutenant-General Deliwe de Lange said.
Police would not comment on the officer’s current employment status following the incident.
In 2017, when news of the abuses by the school patroller surfaced, parents who spoke to Daily Maverick expressed their anger at what they called a lack of consultation by the department.
“We are left in the dark. We allowed the department of education to micromanage this,” one father said.
The father, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of his minor daughter, told Daily Maverick then that the department was trying to save face.
On Wednesday he reiterated this view, saying no one told had him about the latest incident, and that he found out in the media.
“Again today we found out about this in the news and we are at school every day dropping off our kids. I feel very angry and let down. This is beyond believable,” he said. DM
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