THE WOMEN PUTTING RAPISTS BEHIND BARS
Putting sexual offenders away for good is all in a day’s work for these three women. MANDY WIENER meets a cop, scientist and prosecutor who hand out justice to some of the country’s worst criminals
THE PETITE WOMAN with perfectly braided hair and manicured nails sits in the bustling tavern in Ivory Park in Johannesburg late at night when her phone rings. It’s carefully set out on the table, alongside a swollen purse and car keys; bait to lure the target in. When she answers, she can hear her wailing newborn on the other end. Torn between her relentless hunt for a serial rapist and her children at home, Sergeant Nomsa Masuku turns to her male partner and calls it quits for the night.
For four years, Nomsa was on the trail of Albert Morake. She was based at the Tembisa police station when she established a link between a number of cases – all with the same modus operandi and the same suspect’s DNA. Nomsa was so intent on catching him that she and her colleague would spend Friday nights at bars and taverns posing as a couple in the hope that he would target them. At the same time, the 40-year-old was raising three boys who are now 18, 12 and three. ‘The hardest part of my job is waking up in the middle of the night and leaving my family to trace criminals who are always armed,’ Nomsa says.
Through good old detective work, courage and persistence, Nomsa caught her man. She received a tip-o from a source about Albert’s location, staked out his house, knocked on the door posing as a disgruntled ex-girlfriend looking for maintenance money and bust him red-handed with a house full of stolen goods. He was ultimately convicted of 30 counts of rape and 42 of kidnapping, among others.
Nomsa and I meet in Braamfontein. She hasn’t slept in two days, but her bright eyes and composed demeanour belie this fact. Originally from KwaZulu-Natal, Nomsa grew up ‘scared of seeing a police o cer’. ‘Now here I am; I am one of them,’ she says. She spent ve years working at Booysens police station in Johannesburg, two of them in uniform. Frustrated that she was never allowed into the eld because of her slight frame and her gender, she joined the detective branch and found her niche in gender-related crimes. But it is her gender, she thinks, that works to her advantage when working with victims. ‘It’s easier for female victims to relate to female o cers than male o cers,’ she says. She now specialises in catching serial rapists, and relies on her support structure to be able to devote so much time and energy to her work. ‘I make sure that my husband understands my duties, and the reason why I am doing it. He is very supportive and always makes time for the family when I’m not around.’