Parents’ nightmare

True story accompanying image

Nyasha* was only nine years old when she was raped on her way to school in Zimbabwe.

Running late and scared of getting beaten by her teacher, she ran into a local repairman who knew her family and had visited her home often. He offered to take her to school and make sure she wasn’t punished.

He asked her to step inside his shop while he got his shoes. Once inside, he raped her.

Her attacker had HIV. Nyasha was infected with the virus.

It’s hard to imagine a more horrific case. Yet when Nyasha’s parents reported the rape, the police arrested the alleged attacker only to discharge him a few hours later.

When the family appealed to the senior police officer at a second police station, the man was again arrested, brought before a court and remanded. But again, he mysteriously disappeared from custody. No-one could tell the distressed family where he was or what had happened. Despite reassurances from the police and prosecutor that they would look for him, six months passed and he remained at large.

Sadly, this kind of disappearance wouldn’t seem so mysterious for many in Zimbabwe.

“There are some police officers here who would help people get away with any crime, however devastating, if the price was right” says colleagues at Transparency International Zimbabwe who spoke with the family.

We helped Nyasha’s parents fight for justice for their daughter. After listening to their story, Transparency International Zimbabwe contacted the police internal investigations department to raise the case.

Investigations confirmed suspicions: the alleged attacker had paid off the police, prosecutor and magistrate in exchange for being discharged in secret.

Transparency International Zimbabwe and the police investigations unit escalated the case to the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, demanding them to take action to ensure the accused was found and arrested.

They succeeded. During his sentencing, the attacker again tried to bribe the presiding magistrate. But this time the offer didn’t have the desired result. The magistrate rejected the money, and added an additional five years to his sentence as punishment for the attempt. He is now serving 21 years.

*Name has been changed.

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