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My full new itinerary including Namibia and Botswana to the end of the tour (19 May 2010).
To watch Buddy and Me in real time click here, select South Africa under “Global Fleet Logins:” in the left hand panel, enter cellphone number 0822549129 and password Buddy.
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Today dawned a beautiful sunny day, so after thanking Anton and Liezl for their kind hospitality ‘Buddy and Me’ headed out into the bustling peak hour morning traffic of Harrismith. There was a major traffic jam in the ‘city’ consisting of 5 cars at the one traffic light, so it took me a staggering 5 minutes to cover the 4 or so kilometres to the Toyota dealership where Tabler De Wet Van Deventer is Dealer Principal and who had kindly offered to lock the trailer up in the dealership workshop for the night while ‘Buddy and Me’ toured out to first Qwaqwa and then Bethlehem.
While filling up with petrol at a filling station in Harrismith, a lady approached me and gave her opinion on what should be done with child rapists and criminals in general. According to her, and I must admit I personally agree with her, on conviction, the sentencing of the perpetrator should be the decision of the victim or in the case of murder, the next of kin. In so doing we would, according to her, be reverting back to he word of the Bible, as in, “An Eye for an Eye”. The only thing I personally would include is that the convicted felon must remain in custody for a period of 6 months which would provide a ‘cooling off period’ for the victim or next of kin in order that an ‘emotional’ decision is not given.
The drive out to Qwaqwa was a really fantastic one, with some amazing countryside. I could see for kilometres around me and in the distance the mighty Drakensburg Mountain range.
There are two Beares stores in Qwaqwa and believe me if you don’t know where you are going in this massive township it can be a nightmare finding your way around, but by pure fluke I stumbled onto one of the stores, I was supposed to first visit the one in which Jenny Gardiner is manager and then visit the one in the Setsing Centre where Natasja Strydom is manager, but the fact that it was the wrong one was immaterial, the fact of the matter was, I found a Beares store!
I followed Natasje to the other store and had a great time with the staff and guests who had been invited to come and chat with me. The group included a large contingent of police officers as well as social workers and kids from a local school.
One of the main news events for the day was the story concerning a 9 year-old little girl who had returned home from school and on hearing movement in her parents room had walked in and was screamed at by her father “To get out!” but before “getting out” she noticed a foot sticking out from under the bed. She immediately contacted her mother and a dead female body was found under the bed. Evidently, according to the news report, the young woman had been raped and strangled. The really juicy part is the fact that the ‘father’, who was arrested and charged for the ‘rape’ and murder, is a cop with the Qwaqwa South African Police Services! He appeared in court today.
Today was a really enlightening day for me because I was given so many really interesting opinions by the community and one really rang bells for me. It was a comment made by a lady, a resident of Qwaqwa who has lived there all her life, who said that “No laws should be passed by government unless the community or people of South Africa have first approved them”. She went on to say that politicians are voted into power by the people for the people and that they seem to forget that they are public servants and that by being in office does not give them the right to make and change laws as they deem fit, in my eyes “A lady of vision”.
Another amazing lady I met was Nombeko Tlaka of the Leratong Children’s Home. This is a home which provides safe keeping for up to 120 children who are suffering from “Uncontrolled anti-social behaviour”. Children are referred to the home by the Department of Social Development and Welfare Services, but once again we have a situation where government departments refer kids to them but the funding provided by the State is a far cry from being adequate to feed, clothe and care for the children.
From the children’s home, Natasja and Lucy, one of Natasja’s sales ladies, took me on an excursion of the area which included a drive to the top of the Drakensburg Mountain range to the Lesotho border post. The drive involved a hair-raising drive, mainly because the driver was a woman who, believe me, does not drive like a woman but rather like a rally driver, up a steep gravel mountain road with a sheer drop off on the one side. Lucy who was born and raised in the area had never been up the pass to the border repeatedly said, “See-ree-us this is amazing, I have never been here”.
Then it was off to Bethlehem and once again ‘Buddy and Me’ thoroughly enjoyed the countryside and drive in spite of the fact that the road is a nightmare of potholes. Chris Bam the Beares store manager had secured an appointment for me with someone who I can only describe as probably the most amazing individual I have had the pleasure of meeting on the project to date. He is Advocate Roy Naude, what a guy; he is the Control Prosecutor for the regional Court of Bethlehem. This court covers a very large area and he and his staff of prosecutors do an amazing job under extremely difficult conditions and this country of ours definitely needs more people like him.
According to Roy Naude, probably the biggest contributing factor to the ridiculously low conviction rate of child rapists, other than the fact that the initial statements and investigation of the cases is being done by inexperienced and incompetent policemen and woman resulting in the lack of crucial evidence being gathered from the scene at the time of the reporting of the rape, is the fact that it is taking a ridiculously long time for DNA results to be received from the forensic laboratories. He also confirmed that there has been an incredible increase in the amount of child offenders and this can be attributed to the fact that children are not being held accountable and responsible for their actions.
I mentioned the fact that police officials often claim that the low conviction rate is attributed to the fact that the prosecutors in our Regional Courts where all child rape cases are heard, are not as experienced and qualified as the defence council appointed by the State is. His response, and I personally fully agree with him, is that if the statement taken at the initial time of the report was done properly, by experienced police officials, and the incriminating evidence available at the scene, which includes basic evidence such as the victims panties, was collected at the time of the report, even a basic law student could secure a conviction and therefore the experience of the prosecutors is not in question.
The evening was rounded off with me attending the Round Table of Bethlehem’s meeting where I was given the opportunity to tell all the Tablers present exactly what my crusade is about and why I am undertaking this mammoth task of trying to establish what needs to be done to stop the raping of our children in South Africa.
One of the characters of the Table is a guy by the name of ‘Ernesto – The Pora’. He arrived late due to having to attend a family function of some kind, but check out his ‘larney’ outfit, short pants penguin suite nogal, but best of all check out the shoes! I am dieing to see if he is going to where it to the ARTSA conference in Hartenbos on the 16th of April this year.
We eventually got home, home being where I lay my head at night and tonight being the home of Andrew and Janine Wheatley and their two kids, Angela and Ethan.
I, being a Newcastle soccer fan, as opposed to Lloyd my son being an Arsenal fan, could not miss the opportunity of having my picture taken with a Newcastle flag in the back ground and a much sort after (I think) Finland Table hat, perched on my head.
And so ended day 150 of the project ‘Buddy and Me – Searching for a Solution to Stopping the Rape and Sexual Abuse of Children in South Africa’. I have just about completed my presentation I intend giving to our President and his Cabinet on what needs to be done to stopping the scourge sweeping across our beautiful country and will be placing it on this website for comments from the public so keep watching this space.
So all that’s left for me to say is stay well and keep all children safe. Oh yes and on that note, to all those people who have been asking about my grandson’s health, it was identified that he has a virus which has been eating up the iron content in his system. He has been put on a drip and oxygen and a heavy dosage of anti-biotic’s and is reacting well to the medication and will hopefully be back to his perky self and be home again soon. So keep praying for him, it’s definitely working.
Caring regards from
Buddy and Me (Steve Heath)
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