The sentencing of 54-year-old Mike Cunningham is proof that justice prevails.
The Clermont man was sentenced to an effective 30 years imprisonment by the Pinetown Regional Court following an intense investigation into rape charges levelled against him by his daughters, reports Highway Mail.
Cunningham was accused of raping his daughters repeatedly in 1997 and 1998, when they were 10 and 11 years old.
Both complainants did not live with their father at the time, but he would rape them when they visited him at his home in Ndunduma.
Pinetown Cluster communications officer, Capt Bongumusa Manqele, said: “In 1999, they confided in their late grandmother and a case of rape was opened at KwaDabeka SAPS where the accused was working as a reservist, but it was subsequently withdrawn.”
This case was again reported to the police in July 2017 and the accused was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment on Wednesday, 28 November.
Despite the defence asking for a minimum sentence for the accused, saying that there was not enough evidence, he is a 54-year-old father with 12 dependants, self-employed, never had the support of his mother, a first-time offender, and he is on medication for diabetes, the state managed to secure a lengthy sentence.
Representing the state, advocate Sizwe Khanyile said Cunningham failed to protect his daughters and raped them repeatedly.
In a statement from one of his daughters which was read in court, she explained how this ordeal turned her into an aggressive person who always picks fights, especially with boys who were her usual targets.
In the statement, she also mentioned she was robbed of her childhood and had no protector except herself. She stated that she felt lost and confused.
“For years, his daughters hoped that he would show remorse and apologise, but they had to relive their nightmare by testifying against him,” said Khanyile.
Finally, justice has been served
After the trauma, anger, anxiety, and pain, another victim, Fundi Dlungwane, now 32, said she and her sister felt relieved as justice has finally been served.
Fundi said they first reported the matter in 1999, but the initial mistreatment from police forced them to follow the only way out they knew, which was to withdraw the charges.
Speaking to the Highway Mail, Fundi said the torture she was feeling inside pushed her to reopen the case, 20 years later.
“I wanted to close that chapter of my life. Ever since the rape ordeal, I have never been normal, I felt like I was in a box and no one cared, it was too much to handle. I was brutally bruised emotionally,” she said.
She said her relationship with her father felt odd as they have never been close. “I wanted him to love me as my father, but to this date, I have never felt that.
“If he can sincerely apologise, I would forgive him.”
Fundi advised other rape victims to first accept what happened to them and know that it was not their fault and that they did not choose to be raped.
Although it had been a traumatic journey, Fundi said the support she now received from police and the justice department was overwhelming.
“Even though I have been through counselling, I was never at ease as I knew he was never punished for what he did to us.
“Victims should know that they are never alone. I always use Mahatma Ghandi’s quote. ‘Be the change you want to see’. Rape statistics are too high, we should not be quiet, victims need to speak out and get help at places like Open Door Crisis Centre in Pinetown.”
Investigating officers, W/O Bongiwe Zondo and W/O Thokozani Dlamini from The Pinetown Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offenses Unit (FCS) were very happy with the sentence.
“The victims must break the silence, act against abuse and break the chain of violence. There is no such thing as an old case. As long as there is evidence, they do get investigated as this one has proved,” said Zondo.