Former radio and television personality, Norman Patlakwe, on Friday breathed a sigh of relief as Village magistrate Oliviah Zvide let him off the hook over charges of rape, thus finally removing the dark cloud which had been hovering over his head for almost two years.
A family man currently employed by PEEPA, Patlakwe found his future in limbo since June 17th 2007 as he was hauled on hot coals in the wake of allegations made by a teen-aged girl, claiming that he unlawfully and without consent had carnal knowledge of her at Lamila Lodge in Mogoditshane.
Delivering judgement, Zvide indicated that it was a difficult case, particularly in view of the glaring fact that both sides seemed to be telling the truth.
“This is a 50 ÔÇô 50 case, indicating that the evidence adduced by both sides hangs on the balance of probabilities.
There is certain truth in both sides…and despite having weighed with extreme caution their versions, it is very difficult to make a ruling. However, in this similar scenario, the benefit of doubt always favours the accused person and must be given to the defence.
“For the prosecution to have obtained merit,” she added “it should have established beyond reasonable doubt evidence implicating the accused.”
However both parties were at par, leaving her with no choice but to extend an olive branch to the defence team as expressed explicitly by the law.
To bring her point home, that the case was a grid-matrix, Zvide approved as “credible” the complainant’s evidence, arguing that despite some discrepancies, her version illuminated some truths.
“She was only 16 when she gave evidence- in-chief and for the rest of the two days in which she was subjected to grueling cross examination, she maintained her version, implicating the accused person in raping her. This suggests she is a credible and truthful witness, despite some contradictions in the written statements she gave the police and the evidence in chief she relayed before court,” the magistrate noted, referring to the instance when the teenager narrated to the police she informed her father about the incident only to recant later.
Turning to the defence, Zvide, on the other hand, found some truth in the party’s version, moreso that the accused person insisted he never penetrated the complainant and is supported by the scientific methods applied which never detected or corroborated any signs of rape.
Narrating her evidence to both the police and the court, the complainant indicated the accused dragged and forcibly penetrated her without using condoms.
“Having been subjected to an examination of three vaginal swabs taken from different parts of the vagina, the complainant who had been raped and had not had a bath would reveal the presence of spermatozoa or at least the presence of male DNA in one of the swabs, but none was found in this case. Male DNA was also not found in the panty that she was wearing on the day in question,” the magistrate further argued, referring to the forensic expert who conducted the examination.
To make matters worse, the medical doctor who conducted the examination was nowhere to be located to explain his medical jargon “rape cannot be ruled out”.
Worse still, his writings on the medical document show no presence of injuries in the genital area – an unexpected situation in view of the forceful and non-consensual intercourse as alleged by the complainant.
Over the contentious issue in which the prosecution brought in a different doctor to stand in for the missing practitioner, the magistrate concurred with the defence that the doctor was not a suitable and competent suitor to explain the writings and conclusions of another individual.
“It is against all these backdrops therefore that I acquit and discharge the accused person for the prosecution failed beyond reason doubt to implicate him,” Zvide ruled out to the excitement of friends and relatives of the accused.
Patlakwe was represented by Basimane Bogopa.