“They [the community] got what they wanted: the commission of inquiry. But what happened to me?” asked Angy Peter, a founding member of nongovernmental organisation Social Justice Coalition (SJC)
Peter was talking about her life over the past two years since she and her husband Isaac Mbadu were first arrested in October 2012 on charges of kidnapping and murdering Rowan du Preez.
Peter was instrumental in collecting evidence that led to the establishment of the commission of inquiry into police inefficiency in Khayelitsha, which wrapped up its work last month.
Her arrest came as Peter was about to prepare her testimony for the commission. She never had the chance to testify.
“My life was turned to pieces,” she said.
Although the police had threatened Peter before her arrest, she did not take it seriously. “I didn’t know things would get so complicated.”
She has been rearrested repeatedly and her home searched numerous times since October 2012.
Her trial, which began in the Cape Town high court in February, exposed a weak case against her riddled with “holes”, intoxicated witnesses and an incompetent investigating officer.
Criminal justice activist
Peter (34) was born in Tembisa in Johannesburg and moved to Khayelitsha, Cape Town, in 2008.
Her interest was the criminal justice system. She focused on picking up the “cold cases” – the cases forgotten by the police. Peter assisted rape victims in Khayelitsha and dealt with the police, courts and victims of crime on a daily basis. She kept records of her work, which initially formed the basis of evidence for the commission.
She did not imagine then that the work she was involved in would lead to a commission of inquiry. “At the beginning I was just doing what felt right for the community,” she said.
“While I was involved in a court case, I realised that it’s not that the whole criminal justice system is not working. The main organisation not doing its work is the police.”
The biggest breakdown, according to Peter, was the communication between the police and victims. She said it was often the case that after their perpetrators were arrested, victims of rape would see them back in the community. “You don’t know what’s happening.”
She said the commission had benefited the community. “Before then, no one wanted to acknowledge the problem.”
Start of the nightmare
Her nightmare began when her television was stolen in August 2012. The man Peter and Mbadi were accused of murdering, Rowan du Preez, was the thief. Therein lies the twist.
“Later on, we found out the TV was actually sold to the police,” said Peter. “He [Du Preez] told me there’s someone who’s powerful who is using him.”
Peter wanted to find out who “set Du Preez up”.
When the police asked Peter to lay a charge against du Preez, she said no, “Rowan is not the problem. The problem is the person who sent Rowan to steal things”. The police urged Peter to open a case. Eventually Mbadi opened the case and the police arrested Du Preez.
Peter said she wanted to drop the charges. “I was not after Rowan. I was after the person who used Rowan.”
Shortly after Du Preez was released on bail in October 2012, he was kidnapped and killed by necklacing. Peter, who was heavily pregnant at the time, and Mbadi were arrested for his murder. “I didn’t realise in my own country I’d have to hide from the people who are supposed to protect me.”
On Wednesday, Judge Robert Henney found Peter and her co-accused guilty of premeditated murder.
Three police officers told the court that Du Preez named Peter and Mbadu as his assailants. During their testimony, the officers said Du Preez, who had been necklaced, could speak and was able to give them his name, residential address and the names of those responsible for his assault.
Judge Robert Henney said Du Preez was still alive at the time the accused were arrested. Christopher Dina and Azola Dayimani were arrested later that day as accomplices in the matter after being named by state witnesses.
Captain Von Sitters (now Kok) and Constable Raoul Bernardo were the officers who found Du Preez after a passing motorist alerted them. The two officers told the court that they phoned the Kleinvlei police because where they found him fell within their patrol area. Chandre Wilhelm (now Haines) from Kleinvlei Station said the deceased named Peter and her husband as his assailants.
Henney described the officers as honest witnesses. He acknowledged inconsistencies and contradictions in their testimony, but said they were immaterial. He said the police did not know the history between the deceased and the accused nor Peter’s history with the police. (The defence alleged they were framed by the police because of Peter’s role in the SJC establishing the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry).
The judge said Bernardo was a young constable yet confident. He said Wilhelm was affected by what she had witnessed. He said they could not have been part of the conspiracy to implicate Peter and her husband.
In closing, Henney said police testimony corroborated the evidence of witnesses Desree Jack and Ntsikelelo Dlabantu. – Additional reporting by GroundUp.