Orphan raped at resort sues municipality
Lawyers concentrate on security at Ceres holiday spot where young girl was attacked in 2009
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
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.