Justice is one of the most important moral values in the spheres of law, politics and civil society. Establishing justice means that all people are to be ruled equally by the laws of their country that keep people safe and protected.
In February 2018 I was arrested on allegations of "Kidnapping and Extortion". I vehemently deny the charges and I assert they were made up in order to punish me unfairly and to gain advantage over a civil property dispute.
The charges were listed as Schedule 5 under the Criminal Procedures Act. The scheduling was intentionally incorrectly stated because a Schedule 5 requires a formal bail application for release from detention. This means an accused would not be released from detention after a first appearance, but would be transferred on remand pending an available court date.
It is a known fact, detention causes crippling mental trauma and recovery from the effects of prison is a long journey - even for convicted criminals, but in the cases false allegations it strikes the deepest chord of human violation.
The impact of being arrested has completely devastated my life. I have faced challenges in the past, but nothing can equate to being falsely accused. After my release on bail I suffered acute anxiety, depression, nightmares, loss of friends and family and of course, total financial ruin.
Motivation for Malicious prosecution
My accuser was aided and abetted by my former partner and appears to have concocted the story together with his Attorney and the complainant. The case was opened on the basis of my accuser’s statement, without one shred of tangible evidence. In addition, the complainant happened to be an undocumented illegal, of no fixed address. The case was opened four months after the alleged incident and for a year after my arrest, the State failed to proceed with the matter and it was withdrawn from the Court Roll.
Establishing Prima Facie
A prima facie case should only be established where sufficient evidence supports a party's case and would justify a verdict in his or her favour and provided such evidence is not rebutted by the other party. The police opened the matter without having evidence to confirm the claims.
Before I was arrested I was a business owner, independent business consultant, Company Director, community activist and patron of emerging creative. The police had a duty of care to weigh in on these factors and use police discretion to assess whether or not it was likely a crime took place. Furthermore, the connection between the complainant, the Attorney who assisted him to prepare a statement and my former partner should have been factored into the equation.
A road to ruin
I can not envisage a road to recovery from this dark period unless I open a case against the police and national prosecuting authority in order to clear my record and seek out restitution. I cannot do this without financial means and I need financial support for:
- legal costs to prepare a solid case against South African Police and National Prosecuting Authority for wrongful arrest, unlawful detention and malicious prosecution
- conduct a full investigation into the relationship between the complainant, my former business partner, his attorney and collusion with the police
- emergency funds for personal relief and trauma counselling
Twenty years ago life on a farm seemed so uncomplicated. Our thatched home perched on a kopje, overlooking cultivated fields and distant blue outline of granite hills. At that time I owned and managed a successful logistics company, operated a warehouse and home decor gallery. It was inconceivable that I would end up destitute and dependant. This is a brief outline of my journey.
The back story
It all started in 2000 when Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe turned on white commercial farmers. The former President mobilized mobs to farms and they embarked on a campaign of political violence against commercial farmers. For four years my family suffered daily abuse from a resident mob. I was kidnapped and held hostage, we were held at gunpoint, beaten and threatened with death. We lived in constant fear of the unknown. In 2004 we were finally violently evicted from our home and forced to flee.
Divorce, Immigration and Unemployment
After our eviction my husband relocated to Zambia to take up employment as a farm manager. The project was on virgin soil and he lived in a tent. I remained in Zimbabwe because our children were at school. Within 18 months this geographical separation took its toll on our relationship and our marriage ended.
Conditions in Zimbabwe continued to deteriorate. Hyperinflation, food shortages, electricity and water outages dominated daily life. The army and police continued to attack ordinary citizens. People were subjected to random beatings, jailed or killed.
As a "single" parent I could not envisage a future in Zimbabwe where I or my children could expect to thrive. The outlook was grim and I decided to leave the country with my children.
New beginnings are enormously challenging. After relocating to Cape Town, my first priority was employment. I found a position with an interior architect. Within a few weeks of joining the company I was subjected to emotional abuse at work. I became my line manager's whipping boy. Daily verbal insults, sexually inappropriate comments and disgraceful language were the order of the day. On one occasion I was totally humiliated because my manager hurled the contents of his desk at me, followed with an order to pick them up. I was powerless to his authority and I tolerated the abuse because I could not afford to be unemployed.
After two years I was offered an amazing career opportunity with a national outdoor clothing retailer. The position demanded long hours.
Unfortunately I was suffering from untreated trauma from Zimbabwe and subsequent office abuse and it took its toll on my health. A neurologist signed off on sick leave for ten days and diagnosed me with PTSD.
When I returned to work I was accused of exaggerating my medical condition. I was being called a liar. I lodged a formal complaint with the company human resources and my employment was terminated shortly afterwards.
Saying "No" to Injustice
My earliest childhood memory relates to injustice. I was sexually violated at 8 years old, and then again not long after the first incident by our neighbour’s son. These two incidents were carefully guarded secrets because somehow, even at that tender age one felt shame as if it was your fault. This manifested over the years as an aberration for injustice.
During Zimbabwe's land reform many became victims of injustice. Standing against the system would only lead to more violence, State orchestrated violence. When I arrived in South Africa I expected things to be different. However, I quickly realised society was constructed unequally and there was more of the same inequality, although far less obvious. Society in South Africa is biased in favour of those with deep pockets, or the political elite, the connected and the rich.
Taking on a national Corporate
Workplace abuse and unfair dismissal struck a deep chord which screamed "no more" and I decided to take a stand for justice against corporate South Africa. I knew I was pitted against the infinite resource of an established retailer. Litigation dragged on for 18 months. I was unemployed. I had a family to provide for. I ran out of money. I became homeless. My debts were mounting.
Pre-trial my former employers offered a generous out of court settlement which I accepted. I knew I could not service further legal costs and although I was compensated for my job loss, not being able to take the matter to court has blocked my career because of the stigma associated with being dismissed.
New level, new devil
In 2014 I bought a property jointly with my partner. Two years into the partnership our relationship became irreconcilable and I agreed to sell my shares to him. We negotiated a settlement under two separate agreements - one for the property shares and the other in respect of the partnership.
I complied in good faith with the terms of the settlement and expected to be paid out. However, six months later, I had not been paid, I had no access to the property or business and the property was still registered in my name, along with potential financial liability. I applied a clause to call the agreement into breach.
In a letter dated 12 December 2017 my partner’s attorney advised he had been instructed to make a civil application to remove me from joint ownership of the property. The letter included a number of veiled threats.
Using undue pressure - opening a case of false criminal charges
Unbeknown to me at the time, my former partner and his Attorney colluded to open a criminal case against me. It is no co-incidence that the case number was registered on12 December 2017, the same date civil proceedings were instigated.
Wrongful arrest, unlawful detention and malicious prosecution
After my arrest I was placed in police cells for three nights, arrested on a Friday afternoon, which is a tactic regularly used to maximise the effect of being held in police custody. I appeared in Cape Town magistrates court the following Monday and was denied bail for unstated reasons and immediately transferred to Pollsmore Prison as a remand detainee.
Over the next 8 days I experienced multiple layers of personal violation. I witnessed gross abuse of authority and institutionalised violence. I was ordered to strip naked in full view of other detainees. Correctional Services staff conduced a cavity check. This was was possibly the greatest violence I have personally experienced in my life. A degrading experience of having my legs parted while squatting with arms in the air is an image I cannot wipe from memory. The prison authorities were racist and took pleasure in belittling white detainees in passive ways, for instance, refusing food, my bible and medication.
Pollsmore female cells were overcrowded and unhygienic. Fifty two woman and twenty beds. My first night I was physically abused. The entire interaction with prison staff displayed disregard of detainee constitutional rights and presumption of innocence. A bright yellow prison uniform adds to the experience of condemnation and robbing a personal of individualism, both an intentional form of punishment. Many women in detention had been on remand for several months, some nearly two years. This was deeply disturbing because it exposed me to a broken and flawed system.
The property dispute
A few weeks after my release from remand detention, I was served documents from my former partner to remove me from joint ownership of the property. I consulted an attorney but I could not oppose the matter because I could not afford to pay legal fees for a civil matter and a criminal matter at the same time. The civil matter was made an order of the court and I lost all chance of recouping any value I had in the business I had built.
A rotten Attorney
During this process, my former business partner tried to entice me to sign a broad power of attorney to enable an easy transfer of my property share to a third party. At one of the meetings the attorney admitted he had prepared the statement to open the criminal case - claiming he felt sorry for the victim.
Twelve months of hell
I appeared before a magistrate nine times and on 12 February 2019 the State withdrew charges. The Clerk of Court record illustrate a track of incompetence and a Public Prosecutor who also seems to have been conservative with facts. The repeated court delays were a violation of my constitutional rights to quick access to justice.
Property Dispute Unopposed and an Order of Court
In the meantime, the High Court ruled in favour of my partner and the property was sold. I never did get paid for my business share and in fact, the assets of the business, being all furniture belonging to the going concern were unlawfully sold to the third party when he took ownership of the house. The new owner claims he never bought a going concern, but today the business operates using intellectual property that I created and owned.
Not being able to defend this matter left a bitter taste of injustice, which I have had had to accept. I have no chance of recovering this value and it feels like I lived through a second eviction.
Prejudice and Damages
I sold everything of value to pay legal costs. My car, jewellery, antique furniture, Persian rugs are all gone. Everything I worked for, for 35 years, has been taken from me.
On top of this, I have applied for numerous vacancies in my desperate need to get back on my feet, but South Africa has an affirmative action policy and as a 57 year old white female being appointed will be a miracle.
I believe an accountable judiciary is crucial to democratic society. It starts with each of us standing firm against injustice. If we fail to uphold core values, civil society will be at risk. As is the case in Zimbabwe where law and order has all but collapsed.
Lawlessness is like oil. It seeps into our daily lives when we chose to remain impotent. Injustice is rarely self-contained, it bleeds into society and if it can happen to me, it can happen to you, your husband, or your child.
Fact Check - Supporting Documents & Information
In the year 2000 Zimbabwean President, Robert Gabriel Mugabe sanctioned and then deliberately strategized political, collective and economic violence against white commercial Zimbabwean farmers.
A personal account can be viewed Here -YouTube
Video Credit Sepia Films - Vic Sarin and Austin Andrews
Face Book page documenting human rights abuse in Zimbabwe. - "Facebook News.
My project to record personal accounts of Zimbabwe Human Rights Abuse Research Project
A claim for unfair dismissal from National Retailer
"Evil Prevails when Good men Do nothing" T Roosevelt