Freedom without justice is hallow mockery

By Thomo Nkgadima

A controversial case that has touched and shocked hundreds of people in Praktiseer township 15km outside the ‘first democratic platinum town’ of Burgersfort which straddles Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province.

Rodger Ngobeni (30) was sentenced to an effective 20 years jail term by the North Gauteng (Pretoria) High Court, on the 15 May 2001, for rape. This even though the victim’s family had withdrawn the case after being alerted to the identity of the ‘real rapist’. The complicated case is still not yet resolved but was decide by Judge Justice Van Der Merve.

Ngobeni is now serving 20 years in Bloemfontein, Mangaung Maximum Prison more than 900km away from home for a rape he did not commit. He was found guilty of abducting and raping an 11 year-old girl in 1999.

A witness, Ngobeni’s street mate Albertina Mnisi Said: “She is more than prepared to blow out the whistle and tell the truth once more in the battle for the release of the wrongfully convicted person.”

Mnisi says on the same day of the rape incident, on a Sunday afternoon during the month of April on their way home with her husband she saw the victim with Innocent Nkomo an illegal immigrant from Zimbabwe getting out of a local Tuck-shop, taking an opposite direction, some days latter, after the arrest of Ngobeni. “I informed the investigating officer Inspector Mashatole about the real rapist of an 11 year old girl, unfortunately my testimony was brushed aside by the Tubatse police man,” Mnisi claims.

“The victim’s mother*Mahlatse Madimabe (not their real name) told me that Nkomo worked for her to paint her house and did not pay him for so long until such time he took a horse pipe and threatened to reward himself with her daughter,” Mnisi said.

It is understood that Ngobeni was arrested simply because he is dark in complexion and not fluent in Sepedi like Nkomo. Madimabe, victim’s mother says she received a tip off about the identity of the real rapist of her daughter six days after the rape incident.

Ngobeni’s mother says a police officer told her that his son Rodger was taken to a local clinic a day after his arrest for rape and treated for sexual transmitted disease. The Ngobeni‘s family claims that no medical test were conducted to link the son directly to the crime and no parade was conducted to identify their son as the perpetrator. The family further argues that the victim saw Rodger for the first time in court and no cross examination of the witness was conducted during the final trial.

“Testifying in court Bohloko Madimabe stated that the culprit was wearing a checked shirt, black brand wood trousers, black shoes and a cap, my son do not have any of the items mentioned,” Meleda Ngobeni said.

Ngobeni’s mother described him as a good person known for his jokes and garden service he was rendering for Praktiseer residents to generate his income.

The Madimabe family*(not their real name) have teamed up with Ngobeni‘s family to free him. Ngobeni ‘s mother says they paid Chiloane and Associates Attorneys R5000,00 hoping that he will institute legal action on Ngobeni ‘s behalf so he can be freed.

In the letter he wrote to his younger sister Refiloe, Rodger is adamant that he did nothing wrong and believe that one day the truth will set him free.

A source close to me confirmed that Innocent Nkomo is now having South African Identity Document, officially known as Innocent Khoza, staying in Lebowakgomo with a well-known carpenter in an RDP house. A convicted man whose claim that he was unjustly jailed, his family need a Good Samaritan to help them free their son.

Human Rights commission is a ‘toothless dog’. According to copies of countless series of letters from them they are somersaulting to intervene but Legal Aid Board promised to file a late appeal application to set Ngobeni free. According to a letter from Legal Aid Board there are prospects of success in Ngabeni‘s matter. Meanwhile Ngobeni is pleading with the Department of Correctional Services to transfer him to a prison near his home so that his unemployed mother can visit him.