Kids’ ‘con­sen­sual sex’ rape fury

Au­thor­i­ties say they can’t act until they know if pupils, 10 and 11, agreed to have sex

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By BON­GANI FUZILE

● An ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cial’s sug­ges­tion that an 11-year-old boy’s al­leged rape of a 10-yearold girl at school may have been “con­sen­sual sex be­tween mi­nors” has alarmed and out­raged chil­dren’s rights groups.

The ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment has failed to act three weeks af­ter the girl was raped at her school by the 11-year-old, say­ing it is still in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether the in­ci­dent was rape.

The of­fi­cial’s com­ment sparked anger from chil­dren’s rights ac­tivist and re­searcher Lisa Vet­ten, who says she doubts there could be con­sen­sual sex by mi­nor chil­dren.

The in­ci­dent also shines a harsh light on a ris­ing tide of vi­o­lence in SA’s schools, where kids are of­ten abused by teach­ers or fel­low pupils, and teach­ers are known to de­mand sex in re­turn for marks.

The in­ci­dent has trau­ma­tised the girl’s mother, who may not be named to pro­tect the iden­tity of the child. It oc­curred at Mkhwezo Ju­nior Se­condary School in Xh­wili vil­lage, about 25km west of Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.

The mother was alerted to the rape af­ter a video of a teacher in­ter­ro­gat­ing the two chil­dren went vi­ral. She re­ceived the video from a rel­a­tive.

The in­ci­dent has ex­posed glar­ing fail­ures by au­thor­i­ties. The school did not re­port the rape to the po­lice or the ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment, and the depart­ment has taken no ac­tion against the school, the prin­ci­pal, the teacher or the boy.

And while po­lice say they have in­ves­ti­gated and are send­ing the mat­ter to the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity (NPA) next week for a de­ci­sion on whether or not to pros­e­cute, the girl’s mother told the Sun­day Times this week that po­lice had not con­tacted her to ask for her daugh­ter’s ver­sion of events.

In the 30-sec­ond video clip, which the Sun­day Times has seen, a teacher asks the two chil­dren in Xhosa what hap­pened. When the girl be­gins to cry, the teacher shouts and shakes her fin­ger at her.

The vis­i­bly shaken girl then ex­plains, say­ing: “He said I must kneel down and I did that, then he raped me.”

When ques­tioned, the boy re­sponds: “I raped her at the back and then in front.”

The rape oc­curred on school premises dur­ing school hours.

The grade 4 girl had been stay­ing with her grand­mother be­cause her mother works in Mos­sel Bay in the West­ern Cape. Her mother has pulled her out of the school and they are now both in Mos­sel Bay.

Her mother told the Sun­day Times she learnt of the rape when the video was sent to her via What­sApp.

“I could not be­lieve this was my lit­tle girl, ex­plain­ing to the teacher how she was raped by this boy. You could see that she was shaken and wanted to cry, yet the teacher was rais­ing her voice. My girl painfully tried to ex­plain the in­ci­dent, that episode was so trau­matic.”

The woman said she sent her sis­ter from Mos­sel Bay to the Eastern Cape to talk to the ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment and the po­lice.

“All I wanted was for my child to be moved out of that school and to be safe be­cause

[On the video] was my lit­tle girl, ex­plain­ing how she was raped … yet the teacher was rais­ing her voice

Vic­tim’s mother

I was wor­ried that she would be threat­ened. She was not safe.”

The vic­tim’s aunt said they were wor­ried about how many chil­dren at the school had seen the video, and how this was af­fect­ing the girl.

“This is not right, teach­ers should know bet­ter,” she said.

She said she had opened a case of rape against the boy and of crimen in­juria against the teacher at the Bi­tyi po­lice sta­tion. “She needs to ex­plain why she can al­low that to be done to her chil­dren.”

She also alerted a lo­cal NGO, the Khula Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment Project, which alerted the Eastern Cape ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment. The or­gan­i­sa­tion’s leader, Pet­ros Ma­jola, said he was shocked by the in­ci­dent.

“This is hu­mil­i­a­tion of the worst kind as these kids, mostly the girl vic­tim, will live with this for­ever,” he said.

Ma­jola said it was clear the depart­ment did not know its own poli­cies. “There’s noth­ing con­sen­sual here. The depart­ment must not even look at that. It seems that they don’t un­der­stand their poli­cies on chil­dren’s safety at school.

“Chil­dren aged 10 and 11, what do they

know about sex? A crime has been committed here.”

Eastern Cape ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment spokesper­son Mali Mtima said that af­ter Ma­jola con­tacted them, they im­me­di­ately sent a le­gal team to the school, “but the team was told the fam­ily was go­ing to take le­gal ac­tion”.

He said: “We as the depart­ment are do­ing our own in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter.

“Re­mem­ber, we are deal­ing with mi­nor chil­dren, the mat­ter is very sen­si­tive. We can’t re­ally go for one teacher until we know who was there, who took the video, whose phone was that and how it ended up out­side the school premises.”

He con­firmed the school had not re­ported the in­ci­dent to the depart­ment.

Na­tional ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment spokesper­son Eli­jah Mh­langa said the Eastern Cape depart­ment had a rapid-re­sponse sys­tem for re­port­ing such in­ci­dents.

“The sys­tem works very well. Un­for­tu­nately in this case the prin­ci­pal did not re­port the mat­ter on the re­port­ing sys­tem. Ac­tion will be taken against the prin­ci­pal.”

When depart­ment of­fi­cials asked to in­ter­view the teacher, she “pro­duced a let­ter from her at­tor­ney in­di­cat­ing that she will not par­tic­i­pate in the process”, he said.

“Dis­ci­plinary steps will be taken against the ed­u­ca­tor, [but] it is so close to the end of the year it will un­for­tu­nately have to stand over until the new year.

“We can­not com­ment on the is­sue of rape. Our in­ves­ti­ga­tion shall de­ter­mine whether it was rape or con­sen­sual sex be­tween mi­nors.

“On com­ple­tion of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and dis­ci­plinary process the mat­ter shall be re­ported to South African Coun­cil for Ed­u­ca­tors.”

Vet­ten, who has worked in the field of gen­der-based vi­o­lence for over 20 years, said the depart­ment should not have made such a com­ment about con­sen­sual sex be­tween mi­nors.

“This is bad. What about the vic­tim’s rights, why are they ex­pos­ing her, a vic­tim of al­leged rape, to this? This is go­ing to af­fect her for the best part of her life un­less proper coun­selling is re­ceived.”

Ed­u­ca­tion ex­pert Mary Met­calfe, a for­mer Gaut­eng MEC of ed­u­ca­tion, said chil­dren un­der the age of 12 were not con­sid­ered ca­pa­ble of “con­sent” to sex­ual ac­tiv­ity be­cause they did not have the so­cio-emo­tional ma­tu­rity to make this de­ci­sion.

“All adults, and ed­u­ca­tors in par­tic­u­lar, have a re­spon­si­bil­ity of care in re­la­tion to chil­dren. The teach­ers in­volved should im­me­di­ately have acted to pro­tect the chil­dren con­cerned by en­sur­ing that pro­fes­sional sup­port was brought in; that each child was able to re­count their ex­pe­ri­ence in a safe and un­threat­en­ing space; that the iden­tity of the chil­dren was rig­or­ously pro­tected; that the fam­i­lies were in­formed; and that ap­pro­pri­ate coun­selling and sup­port was pro­vided,” she said.

“Both chil­dren now need sup­port, and crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion is not legally ap­pro­pri­ate. This is a sys­temic prob­lem and the in­ci­dent should be the im­pe­tus for im­prov­ing our sys­tems of sup­port for teach­ers who have to re­spond to such in­ci­dents. Teach­ers need clear frame­works for pro­tect­ing vic­tims and clear sys­tems for re­port­ing and seek­ing sup­port as they, too of­ten, are on their own.”

The Eastern Cape rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Com­mis­sion for Gen­der Equal­ity, Nom­sisi Bata, said: “The depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion should do their in­ves­ti­ga­tion but know that young chil­dren can­not con­sent [to] sex, no way. Teach­ers should pro­tect chil­dren dur­ing school hours, not take videos and share them, as is al­leged here … But most of all, we call for psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port of these two chil­dren.”

Eastern Cape so­cial devel­op­ment MEC Phumza Dyan­tyi said the depart­ment would ensure the girl re­ceived coun­selling, and pointed out that fail­ure to re­port a case of child abuse is a crime.

The school’s gov­ern­ing body chair, Stan­ley Cama, de­clined to com­ment, say­ing he was wait­ing for guid­ance from the prin­ci­pal.

Po­lice spokesper­son Capt Di­neo Koena con­firmed po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing and that the girl would be in­ter­viewed if the NPA de­cided to pros­e­cute. weak gov­ern­ment sys­tems.

“We had prob­lems with ap­point­ments to SOEs and it was a cul­mi­na­tion of weak­ness and lapses over many years.”

Ac­cord­ing to the new guide­lines, min­is­ters who are share­hold­ers in SOEs and min­is­ters re­spon­si­ble for pol­icy would be jointly re­spon­si­ble for ap­point­ing the boards and CEOs.

Dlodlo said in the case of Eskom, the pub­lic en­ter­prises minister would not ap­point the board by him­self. “Jeff Radebe, who is en­ergy minister, will also have an in­ter­est.”

In some in­stances, three min­is­ters would jointly de­cide on board members, whose names would then go to the cabi­net for rat­i­fi­ca­tion.

The new guide­lines are a pre­cur­sor to pend­ing leg­is­la­tion on how boards have to be con­sti­tuted.

Ac­cord­ing to the guide­lines, can­di­dates have to dis­close their in­ter­ests, and ap­point­ments will have to be done trans­par­ently.

There will also be en­hanced vet­ting of can­di­dates and a proper ver­i­fi­ca­tion of their qual­i­fi­ca­tions by the South African Qual­i­fi­ca­tions Au­thor­ity.

In 2014, the then chair of the SABC board, Ellen Tsha­bal­ala, was found to have lied about her qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

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