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Let down by a broken system

ON THE CASE: Phoi

An 11-year-old orphan from Samedupi settlement and the man she accuses of raping her have undergone mental evaluation.

The suspect, Peter Keakopa, 46, is said to have raped the then 9-year-old on 6 July 2018 when she went round to his house asking for cooking oil.

Keakopa’s attorney, Lesego Phoi, requested the psychiatric assessment before the case can go for full trial.

“I had to make the request because the language used by the girl was not of a normal 11-year-old,” Phoi explained when reached for comment.

Phoi made the application to court three months ago ahead of trial but, as of this week, the results of the assessment were not yet out.

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The matter goes back to court this Monday for mention.

The officer prosecuting the case, Paul Basupi indicated that the outcome of the assessment will determine the direction of the case.

It is alleged that on the day of the suspected rape, the little girl was sent by her aunt to ask for cooking oil from a nearby neighbour, Keakopa.

By the time nightfall hit two hours later, the child had still not returned home.

Growing worried, the girl’s aunt, accompanied by a neighbour, went searching for her and reportedly found her walking back home accompanied by Keakopa.

After asking her why she took so long, the child responded that ‘nothing happened’.

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However, following persistent questioning from her family, she eventually claimed Keakopa had raped her.

The village women sitting around the fire that evening, are said to have inspected the child’s private parts using a mobile phone torch before reporting the matter to the police.

According to her police statement, upon arrival at the accused’s house, he instructed her to sit on his bed.

“He undressed me, pulling out my tights and panties. He made me lay on my back and he laid on top of me after he removed his trousers and he inserted his erect penis into my vagina and had sexual intercourse with me once with a condom. All this time I was crying because I did not want to do that.”

Keakopa denies the allegation.

Meanwhile, Okavango Voice learnt the young girl is also accusing an older man in the village of repeatedly raping her.

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Despite the family insisting they have reported the matter to the cops, the police maintain they have received no such complaints.

After making the short journey from Maun to Samedupi, we met up with the child’s family – two aunts, a grandmother and a neighbour, who is a relative.

The girl claimed some of the rape incidents happened at her home in the presence of her aunts.

“Even when I cry they do not help me. I miss mom and dad because if they were here, they would have been protecting me against men who are hurting me. Dad used to buy nice things for me, but I no longer get them, all I get is hurt!”

When asked why she did not intervene during the alleged rape, one of the aunts admitted she saw the girl with the man but did not see him rape the child.

“I did not hear her cry. I was resting and must have fallen asleep.”

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Listening intently, the grandmother claims social services are yet to visit the family despite the case against Keakopa being reported over two years ago.

Asked why she was failing to protect her granddaughter, the old woman explains such actions never took place in her presence and therefore she did not have proof.

“She refuses to go to school and men keep using her. They think she is a grown woman but she is only a child!” she concluded with a sad, trembling sigh.

According to the child’s medical card from 2018, it indicated she had been raped four times.

However, she maintains ‘an old man in the village raped her recently and repeatedly’.

Commenting on the issue, Child Line Botswana conceded the girl’s case is a typical example of the way the system is failing children.

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“The case is not properly handled by the government. First of all, that child should have long been removed from such an unsafe environment,” stated a counselor for the non-governmental organisation, Onkgopotse Thobega.

Describing the system as broken, Thobega added, “Even the infrastructure of the police is not child friendly. A child cannot confidentially report to the police. If anyone was serious about protection, then the police should have protection units where survivors of gender based violence can be housed until their cases are concluded.”

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