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Tazne van Wyk murder – activists demand system change after twice-paroled killer convicted

Tazne van Wyk murder – activists demand system change after twice-paroled killer convicted
Protesters outside the home of murdered eight-year old Tazne van Wyk's family in Connaught Estate, Cape Town, on 25 February 2020. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The 57-year-old – who has been convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering the eight-year-old in the Western Cape, and was also found guilty of 17 counts of sexual and assault charges relating to other minors – was out on parole and on the run when he committed his depraved crimes.

The killer of eight-year-old Tazne van Wyk might have been found guilty, but activists and women’s groups say the Justice Department must now change the parole system – otherwise they “don’t see an end” to the scourge of violence against women and children.

The man was out on parole when he murdered Tazne in February 2020, along with a string of rapes and sexual assaults against other minors.

Groups fighting gender-based violence, rape and domestic violence also want a rethink of Section 280 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), which permits one or more sentences to run concurrently, either in whole or in part.

“If we add all these convictions, which carry a life sentence, it comes to over 300 years. I do however hope that the judge does not give a sentencing of life sentences running concurrently,” said gender-based violence and rape survivor, Reverend June Dolley-Major, after Tazne’s killer was found guilty in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.

Speaking outside court, Dolley-Major told Daily Maverick: “The judgment in the Tazne case is an example for the Justice Department to scrap this section in the CPA in its totality and replace it with ordering that a murderer or rapist convicted on multiple counts should serve all his life sentences behind bars.” 

Acting Judge Alan Maher found the man guilty of kidnapping, raping and murdering Tazne, as well as 17 counts of rape and assault of minors. The sexual assaults were committed between 2016 and 2019, during which time he had breached his parole conditions and was on the run. 

In the interests of his victims, Daily Maverick will not name him.

‘Evil’ among us

Sandy Lawrence of the Mitchells Plain Crisis Forum, who was also in court, could not contain her emotions: “If this parole system is not relooked at then I don’t see an end in the violence against women and children. Something needs to be done by those in authority,” she explained.

The DA’s social development spokesperson, Alexandra Abrahams, did not mince his words, saying the restorative justice programme the murderer was said to have participated in evidently requires urgent attention, since he was certainly not rehabilitated and should never have been released from prison.

The charge sheet, he said, confirms that evil walks among us and the onslaught against women and children is out of control.

Read in Daily Maverick: “​​Family of slain eight-year-old Tazne van Wyk devastated as trial delayed for a year”

Tazne’s mother, Carmen van Wyk, was overwhelmed by the outcome, and could only say: “I can’t say that I’m happy because nothing is going to bring back Tazne. All that I wanted was that justice prevail.”

judgment tazne

Tazne van Wyk’s funeral was held in Elsies River. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais)

The Grade 3 pupil went missing on 7 February 2020 and her decomposed body was found on 19 February 2020 in a stormwater drain along the N1 in Worcester. She was last seen alive with her killer in CCTV footage from close to Bergsig Motors on 7 February. It shows them at 11.15pm walking away from the dealership towards the N1 until they vanish into the dark.

When police found her decomposed body they discovered her left hand had been chopped off. The court found this had been done because the police would have found the killer’s DNA under her fingernails.

Paroled twice

The killer was handed a 10-year sentence on 7 April 2008 for kidnapping, child molestation and culpable homicide. He was released on parole on 3 April 2013 and absconded on 18 November 2013. He was rearrested on 12 August 2015.

He was paroled a second time, from 17 October 2016 to 18 May 2019, only to vanish again on 6 February 2019. After that he was not seen by Correctional Services until he murdered Tazne a year later, on 19 February 2020.

The latest crime statistics released in August 2022 showed there were 9,516 reported rape cases between April and June, 500 more than in the same period last year. According to Police Minister Bheki Cele, 3,780 reported rapes occurred in the rapists’ or victims’ homes, while 1,546 people were raped in public places such as streets, parks and beaches.

Legal experts, however, warn that changing Section 280 (2) of the CPA would be a protracted process. Women’s groups and activists would need to petition the Constitutional Court which, if it concurred, would refer its decision to Parliament to amend the section, which could take years.

‘Preference for minor children’

Notably, Judge Maher said in his judgment: “Tazne’s murder opened these horror stories (sexual assault of children). Tazne’s kidnapping and her ultimate murder was the catalyst that broke more than two decades of silence. In my view it cannot be held against the complainants for not laying charges against the accused.”

The court found that the killer had a preference for minor children. “In this case there is striking similarity because all the victims were young girls, sexually assaulted, he took advantage of them and used similar tactics.

“He showed a remarkable preference for young female children. He has a particular interest in female children and had a pattern in isolating them, just like he occupied Tazne to the shop on 7 February 2020.”

The judgment added: “The systemic sexual exploitation of women and children depends on secrecy, fear and shame. Too often survivors are stifled by fear of their abusers and the possible responses from their communities if they disclosed that they have been sexually assaulted. 

“This is exacerbated by the fact that the sexual perpetrator, as the applicants alleged, is in a position of power over them. They are threatened and shamed into silence. Self-blame disabled the victims.”

Read in Daily Maverick: “​​‘The system has failed Tazne Van Wyk’

National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said the judgment showed that whatever crime that you commit, will catch up with you.

The NPA was not alone in this fight, he said, adding that they needed the support of NGOs because they have a big footprint in communities. 

“So, if we can work together to ensure that we fight this crime, we will be able to lessen or reduce the problem areas. It is almost impossible that this can be left to the state alone. We need each other to fight these heinous crimes.”

Sentencing proceedings will begin on Monday, 16 January 2023. DM

Timeline

  • At 1pm on 7 February 2020, Tazne van Wyk returned from school. She changed into a jumpsuit, had something to eat and went to play outside. It was the last time her father, Terrence Manuel, saw her alive;
  • Several witnesses testified seeing the accused walking with Tazne. They were also seen at Halaal Fisheries not far from her home on Clare Street, Ravensmead;
  • A taxi driver testified that he picked them up near Shoprite and gave them a lift to Parow Station. He saw them walking into the subway leading to the station;
  • At 5pm, Tazne’s mother, Carmen van Wyk, filed a missing person’s report. A frantic search ensued but failed to deliver a positive result;
  • Also on 7 February 2020, at 9pm, Allison Carels and her landlord, Trevor Noble, were driving in Worcester when they saw the child, dressed in shorts, and the accused. They offered them a lift and asked where they were headed. The accused told them they were on their way to Beaufort West and he was taking the child to her mother. They suggested that the two sleep over, but the accused refused. They accompanied the child and accused to the truck stop and asked if any of the drivers could give them a lift;
  • At 11.15pm on 7 February 2020, CCTV footage at Bergsig Motors in Worcester shows Tazne and the accused walking towards the N1 until they disappear from view;
  • Tazne’s decomposed body is found on 19 February 2020 in a stormwater drain on the N1, not far away from Bergsig Motors.

Gallery

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