A 13-year-old rape victim from Zvishavane was recently reduced to tears after rigourous cross-examination by defence lawyers reportedly in front of some members of the public at Zvishavane Magistrate Court where the case of her alleged rapist was being heard, TellZim News has learnt.
Sources said the matter was being heard before Magistrate Charity Tonongera on Tuesday, May 18, where defence lawyers from Chafa and Associates cross examined the unaccompanied minor for several minutes.
In cases of this nature, victims are normally made to testify in camera so as to protect their dignity from the public glare and the often intimidatory cross-examination tactics of the defence counsel.
The term ‘in camera’ is a legal term which means ‘in private’ where the complainant appears in court before the magistrate, prosecutor, the accused and defence counsel; without media and/or public presence.
In other countries, minor rape victims are made to testify through CCTV and in a separate room from the main courtroom, and with the support of an intermediary.
The Zvishavane case involved one 40-year-old Michael David, a Mimosa mining company employee, who stands accused of raping the minor, on several occasions and sending her nude pictures.
Some sources said the case should have been heard at the regional court in Gweru as magistrates’ court do not normally try rape cases.
When contacted for comment, Gweru Regional Magistrate Phathekile Msipa refused to comment about the claims, insisting that she was not mandated to talk to the media.
However, members of the victim’s family were only allowed into the courtroom after the cross examination was complete, with the victim reduced to tears.
They say they also found that the victim’s phone, which contained some evidence, had not been brought to court as promised by the Zvishavane police who took it.
Some legal minds that spoke to TellZim said it would be procedurally irregular to cross examine a victim under such circumstances and a review of the trial could be applied by the victim’s lawyer.
“Proceedings could be set aside as the case would warranty trial denovo, meaning retrial as the matter would have been done under irregular procedures,” said one expert.
The accused, who is distantly related to the victim, allegedly raped her on three occasions promising her many niceties, and to send her to Dadaya boarding school once she completed her grade 7.
The case was postponed to May 27 for continuation of trial.