Victim embraces her rapist

NWABISA Manyashe cried yesterday as she embraced and forgave the man who ambushed and raped her just hours after killing his wife in 2001.

The two were among the 100 guests attending the Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) with Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele at St Albans Prison outside Port Elizabeth.

However, a stabbing incident in another part of the premises while the minister was on site put a slight damper on the good work done through the VOD.

Correctional Services spokesman Manelisi Wolela said officials managed to control the incident within minutes.

"Four inmates were stabbed by a fellow offender. This was simply an attempt to cause chaos while the minister and other dignitaries were on the premises," he said.

The VOD aims to rehabilitate inmates through a five-step programme working with psychologists and social workers.

Khawulezile Mnyungula is serving life after he murdered his wife in front of his children in 2001, then hid behind a bush and later attacked and raped Manyashe who was walking home from a funeral.

Manyashe, of Alicedale, was emotional as she sympathetically embraced her rapist.

"When he [Mnyungula] appeared from behind the bush I tried to escape but I fell and broke my arm. He raped me on the spot. After that I had to leave school because I was being teased constantly about being raped," she said.

"But I am here today because it is what I need to do to move on with my life."

Mnyungula sat with his head bowed as he described how his "horrific crime" had eaten at him for years.

"When I was transferred to Port Elizabeth from East London in 2007 I had sleepless nights and knew I had to get this off my chest and ask for forgiveness from my children, family and Nwabisa and her family," he said.

"I could only forgive myself once I received their forgiveness. The incident would repeat in my head like a TV show.

"I asked my family's forgiveness last night [Monday] and the Manyashe family today. They forgave me. I don't care about my sentence, I care about their acceptance."

Ndebele said the VOD programme had a specific mandate.

"When these offenders go to court it is them versus the state. But what about the victims? They are suffering in silence. Which is why we introduced VOD to give the victims the opportunity to come to terms with the crime," he said.

"We only accept inmates who have shown regret, remorse, reconciliation, willingness to be rehabilitated and then only are they reintegrated. We are not here to lock and throw away the keys but rather rehabilitate and reintegrate inmates," Ndebele said.