Human trafficking case delayed
The human trafficking trial involving two guardians who allegedly arranged for their 13-year-old mentally challenged niece to be married off to a 61-year-old man was again postponed on Monday.
The trial had previously been postponed earlier in March when advocate Jodine Coertzen, who was initially representing all three, indicated to the court her intention to withdraw from the matter.
On Monday, prosecutor and advocate Zelda Swanepoel told the Port Elizabeth High Court that she had been informed shortly before the trial was set to begin that the “husband” had appointed advocate Motsamai Marele to represent him, forcing the matter to be postponed.
“At this point I am unsure of what is happening,” Swanepoel said.
The three accused – two men and a woman, all in their 60s – have been charged with two counts of human trafficking, while the 61-year-old “husband” faces an additional two charges of rape.
None of the accused have pleaded to the charges.
It is alleged that the aunt and uncle of the girl had arranged for the 61-year-old to marry the teenager, after she went to live with the aunt following the death of her mother.
The uncle and “husband” are alleged to have entered lobola negotiations and the girl was subsequently sent from Bizana to Port Elizabeth to take on the role of wife to the elderly man.
During November 2016 and April 2017 the girl was allegedly raped numerous times by the man.
She was eventually helped by another woman and reported the matter to the police.
Advocate Richard Crompton has since been appointed to represent the aunt and uncle.
On Monday, the defence counsels for the accused told the court they were ready to start with the matter but because of the appointment of Marele, more time had to be allowed for consultations.
Addressing the court, Marele said that he needed time to view the docket and consult with his client.
This after Swanepoel told the court Coertzen still needed to formally withdraw from the record but was unavailable on Monday because she was out of town.
Judge Glen Goosen said there would be substantial prejudice if the court postponed the matter to the next term and instructed Marele to ensure he spent time familiarising himself with the docket and consulting with his client.
“A young complainant needs to be brought in and testify – [we can not allow] the trial to be stretched out,” Goosen said.
The matter was postponed to Tuesday.