The relentless passion shown by Constable Sandra Catherine of the Port Alfred Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offence Unit (FCS) , to seek justice for innocent victims of crime paid off when rape accused Nkosekhaya Gqomo aged 23 was found guilty of two counts of aggravated robbery and two counts of rape in October this year and was sentenced in the Grahamstown High Court on November 27.
Eastern Cape Provincial Commissioner Lt Gen Liziwe Ntshinga welcomed and applauded the weighty sentence handed down on the rapist Gqomo.
“This sentence serves to send out a clear message to perpetrators of gender-based violence, that the SAPS will not rest until Justice is served for victims and survivors. I commend the investigating officer for her diligence, commitment and passion. She experienced many challenges but overcame all and the outcome bears testimony,” said Ntshinga. “Constable Catherine, may your high moral standing and immeasurable desire serve as an inspiration to your colleagues.”
Gqomo was meted out with two life sentences for rape and an additional 15 years imprisonment for aggravated robbery.
On the evening of the December 3 in 2016, the 18-year-old victim was walking to her home in Ndlovini, Nemato that was not far off, when two males approached her. They grabbed her and one of the suspects swung her onto his shoulder. She started to scream and the other stuffed something into her mouth making her cries for help inaudible.
As they walked on a white vehicle stopped next to them and she was forced into the car. At this stage she noticed the accused that carried her had a knife with which he threatened to use should she make a noise. Gripped with fear, the victim noticed the vehicle had stopped and that they were surrounded by bushes. Both the accused and his co accused took her out of the car, which then drove off, and forcibly led her into a dense bush and pushed her into a ditch where they both took turns to repeatedly rape her until the early hours of the morning.
At daybreak, after the perpetrators finished their heinous act, they left her in the ditch and fled on foot. The victim then managed to get up and ran towards the road where a passer-by assisted her and directed her to the Nemato SAPS where a case was opened. Information received by the investigating officer is that the second suspect is deceased.
A few weeks later, on the night of New Year’s day, January 1 2017, the accused was in the company of another accused (who is currently incarcerated on another unrelated charge- housebreaking in Port Alfred), approached the 27 year old victim who was in the company of her boyfriend near the Port Alfred Library. They were chatting when the accused and his accomplice approached the couple and demanded their cell phones at knife point. They grabbed the victim by her hands and dragged her to nearby bushes whilst the helpless boyfriend ran to seek help. They both took turns to rape her whilst her boyfriend ran for help. After their monstrous attack, the suspects fled with the victims cell phones.
The severely traumatised victim then got up and noticed a police vehicle and cried out for help.
Constable Catherine experienced several challenges during the investigation In 2009, Gqomo who was 13 years old was arrested and charged for rape of an 11 year old male. He was released and placed on a “diversion program”.
In June of 2018, Gqomo was arrested by Catherine and after his appearance in court, he was released on bail. He failed to appear for his court appearance and a warrant for his arrest was issued. Local detectives traced Gqomo after he committed a housebreaking in Port Alfred which also linked the accused through DNA.
Catherine used this opportunity and re-arrested the suspect after which the case was transferred to the Grahamstown High Court in preparation for trial.
“I have a burning passion to seek justice for victims of Gender based Violence,” said Catherine who has worked at the SAPS for just over three years. “This sentence may not reverse the incidents but I believe it will bring comfort and a certain degree of closure to the survivors, their families as well as the community.
”We, as the SAPS, will persevere to bring these evil criminals to book. My task does not end here, as I am currently facilitating that these survivors receive psychological counselling as they are extremely fragile. Words cannot adequately express my sincere gratitude to my team including the Director of Public Prosecutions for the amazing support and guidance in ensuring that justice is served.”