Former ANC MP and singer Jennifer Ferguson has decided to offer her alleged rapist – a top sports administrator, who is also an anti-apartheid struggle veteran and former politician – an opportunity for a mediated restorative justice process.
The website of the department of justice and constitutional development describes the restorative justice process as seeing “crime as an act against the victim” where the focus needs to be “shifted to repairing the harm that has been committed against the victim and community”.
In this process, all those “affected by the harm (victims, offenders, families concerned and community members)” sit down together and identify ways of “accepting responsibilities, making restitution and promoting reconciliation” especially in cases where the “current punitive system seems to have only limited success”.
This form of justice “believes that the offender also needs assistance and seeks to identify what needs to change to prevent future re-offending.”
In a Facebook post, Ferguson wrote that the restorative justice process would be facilitated by Paul Verryn, an ordained minister of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, in consultation with experts in this field.
She further pointed out that “if meditation takes place, there is no assumption of guilt” and further reiterated that: “One cannot enter into any meditation process where one party needs to assume guilt.”
Ferguson told the M&G that: “The levels of rape that have been normalised in our society are damaging to the very fabric of sanity in our communities.The levels of silenced pain in our nation cannot continue without serious consequences.
“Women who are raped are confronted with death and forced to continue living with the memory of their humiliation being a constant experience.
“A society that laughs at this pathology is betraying its future. We have to find another way.”
When asked for elaboration on the restorative justice that she is seeking and what she hopes will come out of this process, Ferguson said that she is waiting for a response from the rape accused before she speaks to the media and that she “needs to be still’.
Jennifer Ferguson made her rape ordeal public last week on Facebook and on her blog. She wrote about when she was reportedly raped by the alleged perpetrator 24 years ago at a hotel in Port Elizabeth after performing at a dinner.
She described him as being “pleasant and entertaining” when he struck up a conversation with her but after going to her hotel room, she says “he overpowered me and painfully raped me. It must have been over in about 20 seconds although it felt like a lifetime. He left immediately without saying a word.”
The M&G has attempted to contact the sports administrator, who Ferguson has publicly named, for comment on the allegations and the restorative justice.
The M&G is aware that other publications have continued to name the alleged perpetrator but this has not been done in this article because the Criminal Procedures Act forbids a person accused of rape from being publicly named until they have pleaded to a charge.