WINDHOEK – A woman accused of luring two underage girls from a village in northern Namibia under false promises of employment and then sold them into sexual slavery was convicted on six of the eight charges she faced.
In her judgement that she read out that took more than three hours Windhoek High Court Judge Naomi Shivute convicted Tuufilwa Jonas, 33, on three counts of rape and three counts of trafficking in persons. The accused had trafficked a young girl from Okahenge village in the Omusati Region for sexual exploitation during 2012.
She pleaded not guilty to all charges at the start of her trial, through an Oshiwambo interpreter.
Judge Shivute said on Wednesday that she was satisfied that the State through Advocate Felisitas Sikerete-Vendura proved the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
She however found that the State did not prove one count of attempted rape, and that there was a duplication of charges on another rape count.
According to the judge, the accused unlawfully recruited the complainant who was 18 years old at the time and by means of coercion, deception, abuse of power and the victim’s vulnerability sexually exploited her.
She further said that it was proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Jonas coerced the complainant to commit sexual acts with various men.
According to the judge, although the complainant was a single witness, her evidence was credible.
She further said that the complainant’s version was corroborated by three other young women who testified that they were approached by the accused about employment in Okahandja.
“There is evidence from other three young women who corroborated the complainant’s version that the accused was on a mission and approached young girls either to become girlfriends to her male friends who were in Okahandja, or promised them jobs,” the judge stated.
She added that looking at the totality of the evidence, it is evident that the accused indeed approached the complainant and other young ladies and offered them to go to Okahandja and become the girlfriends to her male friends, and that after the offer was declined, she tricked them by telling them that she would get them employment.
“This trick can also be confirmed by the evidence that when the accused gave N$200 to the complainant, she told her that she would have to refund it when she starts working.”
However, the judge said, when the complainant arrived in Okahandja, she was given over to men she did not know for sexual exploitation.
She went on to say that Jonas did not offer a defence and that although the defence counsel argued that there were two mutually destructive versions before court, the court’s finding on this score, on the contrary, is that there was only one version.
“The accused only offered bare denials,” the judge emphasised and continued: “The explanation that she did not recruit the complainant cannot be reasonably possibly true in the circumstances.”
She further said there is overwhelming evidence that the accused used the same modus operandi to recruit her other victims.
According to Judge Shivute, it cannot be a coincidence that all four state witnesses testified about the same modus operandi.
“The accused claimed that the state witnesses were her enemies and decided to concoct stories in order to incriminate her. However, it has never been put to the state witnesses, especially the ladies who testified, that they were the accused person’s enemies,” the judge stated.
Judge Shivute further said that in light of the totality of evidence as far as the recruitment of the complainant from Okahenge to Okahandja is concerned, the accused is not a truthful witness and her evidence is rejected as it cannot be possibly true.
The trial will resume on August 6 at 09h00 for pre-sentencing procedures and Jonas remains in custody at the Klein Windhoek police station.
She is represented by Milton Engelbrecht on instructions of legal aid.