ANC-aligned alleged rapists roam free
On the morning of December 31, the small town of Britstown in the Northern Cape woke up to the news that a 20-year-old woman had accused three men of gang-raping her. The accused are two leading ANC figures and a caretaker at the local primary school.
Three days later, during the first court appearance of Patrick Mbombo (39), Carel Riempies (39) and Siyabulela Tshandu (30) at the Britstown Magistrates’ Court, a group of up to 40 people wearing ANC T-shirts – some emblazoned with President Jacob Zuma’s smiling face – protested outside court in their defence.
The trio was released on bail of R500 each, Northern Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Dimakatso Mooi told City Press. The National Prosecuting Authority in the Northern Cape said the court would have been persuaded that R500 bail for each of the accused was sufficient.
The investigating officer handling the case said it was postponed to March 30, pending the receipt of outstanding DNA results.
Mbombo is a former ANC branch chairperson in Britstown and a senior manager at the Emthanjeni Local Municipality, while Tshandu has done work for the municipality on a casual basis.
Riempies is a caretaker at Luvuyo Primary School and a member of the local Jeremiah Solomon ANC branch executive committee in Ward 7.
Two community activists with intimate knowledge of the alleged rape told City Press during a visit to the area that “rape is just another crime here in Britstown, and people with money and power get away with it all the time”.
They added that they believed the reason the men were granted bail was because there was interference from politicians.
The 2015/16 crime statistics, which were released in September, showed a spike in sexual offence crimes in the Northern Cape and Limpopo, while the rest of the country saw a decrease.
Northern Cape Transport, Safety and Liaison MEC Pauline Williams said “the number of sexual offences is quite considerable for our province and I am concerned about that”.
“We agree among ourselves as government that it’s a joint venture and we all need to assist one another,” Williams said.
However, in Britstown last week, it seemed like few government officials and community leaders shared Williams’ concern.
Thandeka Qoba, the principal at Luvuyo Primary School, declined to comment when asked whether it was right to keep the accused in the employ of a school that was responsible for hundreds of pupils.
Isak Visser, the municipal manager in the Emthanjeni Local Municipality, where Mbombo is employed as a unit manager in charge of Britstown, said that, according to an internal legal opinion, the municipality could not act against Mbombo until the case was concluded because “the alleged crime did not happen on the premises of the municipality or during working hours”.
Asked whether it should have been recommended that Mbombo take voluntary leave, Visser said the municipality was still considering its options on how to deal with the matter.
He said he was also not aware that people who were relatives of the complainant, and who may be witnesses in the case, were colleagues of Mbombo’s, which created a potentially uncomfortable working environment.
The legal opinion Visser received on January 5 from Nathalie Salter detailed the available facts in Mbombo’s case and highlighted that “there might be a possibility that there might be a political conspiracy against Mr Mbombo”.
Salter said “the mere arrest of an employee does not necessarily mean that the trust relationship had been affected”.
ANC branch chairperson in Ward 7 Godfrey Nyl said the party had not taken steps against Riempies, but the matter would be discussed at the next branch executive meeting.
Khathazile Tolong, ANC secretary in the Pixley Ka Seme region, which includes Britstown, Hanover, De Aar and Petrusville (ANC provincial secretary Zamani Saul’s home town) said the rape allegation had not been brought to the region’s attention and he would put the matter on the agenda for the upcoming regional executive committee meeting.
Mbombo declined to comment.