PORT Elizabeth district education director Dr Nyathi Ntsiko has made an about turn on his promise to visit a New Brighton high school where a rape suspect is still attending school with two of his three alleged victims.
"The pupil has not transgressed the school code of conduct. How can we chase him out of school when they stay together at home? This is a family issue and they need to work together with social workers,” Ntsiko said yesterday.
This comes after Ntsiko had vowed to visit the school to get to the bottom of the incident.
The Herald reported yesterday that the 20-year-old Grade 10 pupil had been charged with raping his cousins, aged 15 and 17, and their 16-year old friend over several months last year while he lived with the sisters and their family. The 17-year-old fell pregnant and gave the baby up for adoption.
The names of the school and the suspect are known to The Herald, but have not been published to protect the identity of the victims.
Yesterday, social workers and community activists said they were outraged by Ntsiko’s response.
John Preller, who provides counselling for rape victims and drug addicts, said justice had not been served and called for a "rethink” by the department.
"I cannot begin to imagine the feelings of those girls, having to see the suspect at school every day. There must be a separation of the victim and the suspect,” he said.
A social worker who preferred to remain anonymous said she was perturbed.
"You are making things worse when you group the perpetrator and the victims. They need to be separated. I urge the parents to press the Education Department for this to happen,” she said.
Meanwhile, the sisters’ mother said yesterday the incident had torn the family apart and caused her 17-year-old to have a mental breakdown. She said the girls had shared a room with their male cousin. It was only when her daughter started gaining weight that she became suspicious.
"I questioned her but at first she was evasive and did not want to say anything.
"In June last year, she admitted being raped by her cousin. She said he threatened her life if she told anyone,” she said.
The suspect was attending circumcision school when the family made the discovery.
"When the suspect returned we, together with the police, went to his grandmother’s house,” the mother said.
He was arrested a day later and was released on bail after spending a weekend in custody.
They then realised that the other two girls had also been raped between April and June, she said.
"We were once one family. But they feel we should not have laid charges against the perpetrator. I just want justice to be done for my daughters,” the mother said.
"I vomited when I heard that he is also attending the same school as my daughter and her friend. I asked my husband to go and report the incident to the teachers. If I had a chance, I would have removed my daughter from that school.”
The mother said her 17-year- old was so traumatised she had been admitted to the mental ward at Dora Nginza Hospital.
Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said the police dealt with each case on merit and were not obligated to have the suspect or victim removed from school.
"If there is intimidation, the family is welcome to bring it to the attention of the investigating officer for investigation. But there is no obligation on our part to remove the suspect or victim from school,” she said.
The suspect is due to appear in the Port Elizabeth Regional Court on June 1.