Lehata must face trial

Lehata must face trial

WE know our judicial system is broken but even that rotten legacy could not have prepared us for an injustice that happened two weeks ago.
Mootsi Lehata, the former law minister and MP, had his rape case withdrawn after he cut a deal with his alleged victim.

The victim, who was a minor when the alleged rape happened, last year, told the magistrate that Lehata agreed to build her a house and fund the child’s upkeep.

The settlement is disgusting because it amounts to the prosecution and the courts rubberstamping an illegal and morally reprehensible deal for a rich and powerful rape suspect to go scot-free.

Lehata is getting away with a heinous crime because he can build a house for his victim and maintain the child that came out of his alleged criminal action.
How about those who cannot afford to pay off their victim?
We should be outraged.

The settlement trivialises rape, a dreadful crime.
Equally revolting is that it involves an orphan and a well-off politician.
Remember Lehata is accused of rape, not some minor traffic offence or misdemeanour.

A rich and powerful man has bought his way out of a potential prison sentence by paying off his alleged victim.

He did so with the approval of the prosecution and the magistrates’ court, institutions that should fight for justice and protect rape victims.
Rape cases, by their nature, should be handled through the criminal justice system.

Yet in this case the prosecution and courts have allowed a suspect to use a civil route to sabotage a criminal case. Instantly, a toxic precedent has been set.
Now we are likely to see men of Lehata’s ilk use their chequebooks to pay off victims to withdraw rape cases.

Having acceded to Lehata’s settlement, the courts and the prosecution will be obligated to sign off similar deals in the future.
It would appear that the prosecution did not to protest against this controversial deal.

Also shocking is that the magistrate doesn’t seem to have interrogated the legality of this settlement. They missed the broader implications of this arrangement on the judicial system’s already foundering integrity.
They should have asked when and how Lehata negotiated with the girl.

Because his bail condition says he cannot interfere with witnesses it means he could not have reached out to his victim without either meeting her personally, through emissaries like friends, relatives or lawyers.

Whichever way he contacted the victim amounts to interfering with a witness and, thus, a violation of his bail condition. We ask under what circumstances the settlement was reached.

Was the victim aware of her rights?
Did she know the implications of the agreement? Did she have a lawyer during the negotiations? Was she not coerced, by money or pressure from interested parties, to agree?

These questions are the reason why such deals should not be allowed in our legal system.

They are open to abuse.  There should be a thorough investigation to answer these questions because this case provides chilling evidence that we have begun creating a monstrous legal system that favours the rich, powerful and clever.

We are on a slippery slope. The consequences of such deals are too ghastly to contemplate.

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