A Story of Extraordinary Courage

On 15 April 2017, Mantwa* went out with her friends for a drink. After her friends had left, she was approached by her ex-boyfriend, Joshua*, who then forced her back to her shack in the early hours of the morning. Once outside, he began to beat her so she would open the door. When she refused, he broke all the nearby exterior lights to gain the cover of darkness and continued his brutal attack on Mantwa, including raping her. The attack went on for several hours and, despite her screams, no one came to Mantwa’s aid. One of Mantwa’s neighbours called the police whose arrival interrupted the attack, but Joshua was able to escape.

Mantwa went to the police station to open a case and was then taken for medical assistance where she was referred to LvA for further support. Fortunately, the police were able to find and arrest Joshua that same day. LvA immediately began providing Mantwa with critical legal and psychosocial support, beginning what would become a 22-month journey to justice.

In the months that followed, LvA engaged with the investigating officer assigned to Mantwa’s case to ensure that it moved forward and did not fall through the cracks and provided Mantwa with ongoing trauma debriefing and counselling. LvA also learned that Mantwa had been fired as a result of needing to take time off for her follow-up medical appointments as her employer did not believe that she had been raped. LvA immediately contacted Werksmans Pro Bono Diepsloot Legal Clinic who agreed to assist Mantwa in bringing a case against her former employer at the CCMA, which was ultimately successful.

Mantwa’s case went to trial in October 2017. And, despite strong DNA evidence linking Joshua to the crime, the trial dragged on for over 16 months. This was, in large part, due to extensive delay tactics used by Joshua and his defense attorney in an attempt to frustrate and discourage Mantwa from pursuing the case, including requiring a highly specialised interpreter. Joshua was no stranger to the criminal justice system. He was a known serial rapist and gang member, having raped at least four other women in Diepsloot, including two women that Mantwa knew personally – one of which had committed suicide following the rape and the other had left Diepsloot altogether. Throughout the trial proceedings, Joshua continued to threaten Mantwa and the other witnesses to drop the case through members of his gang. A group of women from the community even went to Mantwa’s house to pressure her to drop the case, but she persevered.

At each trial hearing, the court room would be filled with Joshua’s family and friends. Each time Joshua was brought in, he would turn around and stare menacingly at Mantwa to further intimidate her. LvA’s staff attorney attended each hearing with Mantwa so she would not be alone, nine in total. In a show of support, several of Mantwa’s friends and other LvA staff members and volunteers also attended some of the hearings. As one can imagine, each hearing was emotionally draining for Mantwa and her friends (who were also witnesses in the case) due to Joshua’s extremely violent nature and, consequently, the personal risk for their continued involvement in this case. In fact, after completing their testimony, Mantwa and several witnesses relocated to another province out of fear for their safety if they remained in Diepsloot.

Mantwa finally took the stand in June 2018 and bravely told her story to the magistrate. Throughout her testimony, Joshua was so brazen that he would laugh out loud in court, to the point where the magistrate had to reprimand him for his behaviour. But Mantwa never wavered. In addition to drawing on her own strength, Mantwa had formed a strong relationship with LvA’s Sr. Social Worker who had provided ongoing counselling and court preparation and debriefing throughout the process. Through these sessions, Mantwa had an opportunity to process her initial trauma, prepare for the secondary trauma experienced during her trial hearings and foster the resilience and strength necessary to not only see her case through, but to begin to move forward with her life.

After another nine months of hearings and further delay tactics, Joshua was convicted on 18 February 2019 and sentenced to life imprisonment. This result would not have been possible without the extraordinary strength, courage and determination shown by Mantwa and her friends who risked their own safety to fight for justice. When reflecting on her case, Mantwa expressed “I am so thankful to those who fought so hard for me” (referring to the support she received from LvA, her friends who had testified, and the excellent work done by the State prosecutor in this case). And now, a man who thought he was untouchable, will remain behind bars, thus ending his reign of terror on women in the Diepsloot community.

*Note that names and dates have been changed to protect the client’s confidentiality.

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