Court slams notion of blaming rape victim

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

The city denied the rape had taken place until a week before the trial date.

A full bench of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has ordered the Matlosana municipality to pay the massive legal bill of a Klerksdorp library assistant who was viciously assaulted and raped after her repeated requests for protection fell on deaf ears.

A high court judge in Pretoria had ordered the rape victim to pay the municipality’s legal costs after she withdrew her R290 000 damages claim against them on legal advice. This after the municipality insisted that she had been injured on duty and wrongly instituted a claim on her behalf with the Compensation Commissioner.

The high court initially refused her bid to appeal against the cost order and she had to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal for leave before her appeal was heard by a full bench of the high court.

The librarian had reported incidents of crime at the municipal library where she worked since 2002. She had been threatened with violence, mugged, assaulted and robbed, and the tyres on her car were slashed. She also reported numerous burglaries at the premises and in September 2002 suffered an attempted rape.

Her numerous requests for extra protection or better security measures were ignored and the city never took any additional security measures, even after she was brutally raped and assaulted in the library in July 2008.

The city denied the rape had taken place until a week before the trial date, despite being supplied with the contents of the police docket and the particulars of the criminal trial. The city also denied that it had failed to take the necessary safety measures or that it could have foreseen the rape, and suggested that the rape victim was also to blame because she had failed to take reasonable steps to safeguard herself.

Judges Ronel Tolmay, Jody Kollapen and David Makoba described the city’s plea and the implication that she was partially to blame for her rape as “offensive, even bizarre and deeply insensitive” to the victim, who must have suffered unimaginable trauma.

Judge Tolmay said the city was a public entity that had failed abysmally to provide a safe and healthy environment to its employees. She said ordering the victim, whose financial resources must be limited, to carry the costs was a further violation of a vulnerable member of society.



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