Or­phan raped at re­sort sues mu­nic­i­pal­ity

Lawyers con­cen­trate on se­cu­rity at Ceres hol­i­day spot where young girl was attacked in 2009

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - FA­TIMA SCHROEDER

AS THE tragic story of a Bul­gar­ian or­phan, res­cued from the brink of death in her home coun­try only to be raped at a pop­u­lar Ceres hol­i­day re­sort, heads for the Western Cape High Court, at­ten­tion this week cen­tred on re­sort se­cu­rity.

How and when the per­pe­tra­tors were mon­i­tored in­side the re­sort was among the ques­tions asked by lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the girl, now 22.

She was seven years old in 1998 when a South African cou­ple found her bedrid­den, ne­glected and mal­nour­ished, liv­ing in hor­rific con­di­tions in a Bul­gar­ian or­phan­age.

They brought her to South Africa, of­fer­ing her a happy fam­ily life.

Her new­found hap­pi­ness was, how­ever, de­stroyed when she was raped at the squash courts of the Pine For­est hol­i­day re­sort, where the fam­ily went on hol­i­day.

City ad­vo­cate Mur­ray Bridg­man, cu­ra­tor in charge of the girl’s af­fairs, in­sti­tuted a R1.4 mil­lion dam­ages ac­tion against the Witzen­berg Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, which owns, con­trols and man­ages the re­sort.

The girl’s bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents aban­doned her two days af­ter she was born. She spent 18 months in an or­phan­age be­fore be­ing trans­ferred to an in­stitu- tion for dis­abled chil­dren in Bul­garia. Years later, a South African cou­ple work­ing as mis­sion­ar­ies met her when they vis­ited the home.

Al­though she was frail and ap­peared weak and mal­nour­ished, she still man­aged to find enough strength to swat flies away from her body.

The cou­ple took her to a hos­pi­tal and learnt she wasn’t brain dam­aged af­ter all.

They got closer af­ter vis­it­ing the child in hos­pi­tal al­most daily and even­tu­ally ob­tained per­mis­sion to bring her to South Africa for a year for med­i­cal treat­ment.

How­ever, dur­ing that year they de­cided she had be­come a part of their fam­ily and started mak­ing ar­range­ments to take her into fos­ter care.

The girl un­der­went thou­sands of hours of ther­apy to help her re­gain her strength. Then, in Jan­uary 2009, the fam­ily went on hol­i­day to the Ceres re­sort.

The record of the crim­i­nal trial shows the girl went to the swim­ming pool with her fos­ter fa­ther and older sis­ter. When she wanted to play in the park, be­cause the cou­ple wanted her to learn to func­tion in­de­pen­dently, they al­lowed her to walk there on her own.

But when they looked for her later, they found only her shoes and back­pack be­side the tram­po­line. Her fos­ter mother no­ticed a boy run­ning from the squash courts and ran to­wards that area.

She heard the child’s voice plead­ing: “This is not good. Don’t do it again. Please stop.” She had been raped.

The two boys, aged 15 and 17, later pleaded guilty to the rape charges in the Paarl Mag­is­trate’s Court.

In pa­pers filed as part of the High Court ac­tion, it is al­leged the rape oc­curred at a time when all ex­cept one of the re­sort’s staff were at­tend­ing a com­pul­sory meet­ing at the city hall, leav­ing the re­sort un­der the con­trol of “an in­ad­e­quate, in­com­pe­tent, un­re­li­able and non- trust­wor­thy firm”.

It is also al­leged that the two boys were ad­mit­ted to the re­sort as day visi­tors, even though they did not have an ad­vance reser­va­tion. As day visi­tors, the boys were pro­hib­ited from en­ter­ing the squash courts.

The lawyers al­lege that the se­cu­rity guards at the re­sort failed to con­duct pa­trols and mon­i­tor the boys’ move­ments ad­e­quately, or at all.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity de­nied li­a­bil­ity.

As a re­sult of the rape, the girl’s cog­ni­tive abil­ity re­gressed and her abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate de­clined. She

se­cu­rity

has also suf­fered from dis­turbed sleep­ing pat­terns, avoid­ance anx­i­ety and panic at­tacks.

The ac­tion is ex­pected to be heard in the High Court in Fe­bru­ary but lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the or­phan went to court this week, ask­ing it to or­der the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to hand over de­tails of se­cu­rity at the re­sort on the date that the rape took place – de­tails which are con­sid­ered cru­cial to her case.

In an af­fi­davit, at­tor­ney Al­ber­tus Jou­bert said in Oc­to­ber last year he had asked for de­tails from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity which were needed to pre­pare for the ac­tion.

Th­ese in­cluded in­for­ma­tion on how and when se­cu­rity guards work­ing at the re­sort con­ducted pa­trols and mon­i­tored the move­ments of the per­pe­tra­tors af­ter 4pm on Jan­uary 20, 2009, the date the rape took place.

Jou­bert added that, since the hear­ing was only three months away, it was “im­per­a­tive” that the in­for­ma­tion sought be pro­vided.

“I ac­cord­ingly sub­mit that it is of the ut­most im­por­tance to the plain­tiff that the (mu­nic­i­pal­ity) be com­pelled to ad­here to the afore­said no­tice,” he said.

On Tues­day, the court or­dered the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to fur­nish the in­for­ma­tion within five days.

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