Former Denel boss fails in attempt to appeal rape conviction
The former COO of Denel Aero Manpower Group, Johannes Jacobus Venter, has lost a bid to overturn his conviction on four counts of rape and seven counts of indecent assault which occurred between 1998 and 2002.
The complainant reported the incidents to police in 2004. She also reported them to the new CEO Zodwa Dlamini.
Dlamini arranged for the head of security at Denel to take a statement from the complainant, and the matter was reported to the police.
The trial commenced in 2006 and in August 2009 the Pretoria regional court convicted Venter on seven counts of indecent assault and four counts of rape. He was sentenced to an effective 10 years in prison.
The appeal by Venter came before two judges in the Pretoria high court and, in December 2016, they were divided and could not reach a decision. The full bench of the high court in Pretoria dismissed Venter’s appeal on a 2-1 majority in 2018.
In the majority judgment of that court, judge Sulet Potterill said the court, as the regional court did, accepted it was not easy for the complainant to be called upon to remember in detail and recount what occurred many years ago, taking into account the nature of the alleged incidents and their affect on her.
The minority in the high court judgment said the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Venter was guilty of the charges and the appeal should therefore succeed.
The high court granted Venter leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), which heard the matter in August 2020. Three judgments were prepared by the SCA which passed judgment on Thursday.
In the majority judgment written by acting judge of appeal Nolwazi Mabindla-Boqwana, with three other judges concurring, the judge was of the view Venter was correctly convicted on all the charges.
A dissenting judgment prepared by judge of appeal Azhar Cachalia said the judgment of the regional court was poorly constructed, error-ridden and devoid of clear reasoning.
He said there were also glaring legal errors in the trial court’s approach to the evaluation of the evidence. “The court did not analyse the evidence on each count and made no specific factual findings in relation to any of them, as it was required to do,” Cachalia said.
In a third judgment prepared by judge of appeal Baratang Mocumie, with two other judges concurring, she agreed with the majority judgment.
Mabindla-Boqwana said more often than not, in sexual offences the state placed reliance on the evidence of a single witness.
“Although there is no general requirement for corroboration, in the criminal context our courts have taken the approach that the evidence of a single witness should only be relied upon where it is clear and satisfactory in all material respects.”
Venter’s argument was that the trial court did not properly assess the complainant’s evidence intrinsically against the evidence of the other witnesses. He said had the court done so, it would have found material discrepancies which affected the credibility and reliability of the complainant’s evidence.
The court did not agree.