The 45-year-old man, dressed in blue jeans and a casual black long-sleeve jacket, appeared off balance as he walked slowly into the dock. The start of his trial had been delayed until yesterday because he was sick and had to be hospitalised due to diabetes last week.
He is facing 56 criminal charges, including multiple counts of rape, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, possession of child pornography, compelling or causing children to witness sexual acts, sexual grooming of children, and creating and distributing child pornography.
He is also charged with child abuse for allegedly not enrolling the girl at school, and forcing her to cook and clean, and encouraging her to smoke.
According to the indictment, the man had allegedly insisted on having custody of his step-daughter after her mother died in 2014. The alleged crimes occurred from January 2017 to June 2018, in Ekurhuleni and in Overport, Redhill and Verulam, where he moved with the child, who was 10 years old at the time. The community arrested him on June 11, 2018, when the allegations first emerged.
Senior state advocate Cheryl Naidu said the state alleged the man had kept the child with him after the death of her mother “so he could achieve his nefarious intentions”.
“He started to groom her as his sexual slave, not only for his pleasure, but also for the pleasure of others. He trafficked her straight into the arms of his lover, whose role it was to teach the child to prostitute herself,” Naidu said.
He said the man had used her as a “sex toy”, groomed and photographed her, and distributed the photographs.
“He always offered the complainant to other persons for the engagement of sexual acts,” she said.
Naidu said the SAPS Cyber Crime Unit in Pretoria had downloaded evidence from the man’s phone that would be used during the trial.
Initially standing in the dock with the fingers of one hand pressed against the bannister, the man shook his head almost every time he pleaded “not guilty” to the individual charges. He eventually requested to be seated for health reasons.
His attorney, Thiagaraj Pillay, said the man did not want to make a statement or give the court an explanation.
A neighbour, who lived in a house on the shared property and was present when the man’s step-daughter told his wife about the alleged crimes, gave evidence of how the community had allegedly beaten him before arresting him and handing him to the police.
He said the girl appeared to be afraid of her step-father.
“Every time she saw her father she just froze up. Fear came across her,” he said.
He said the girl had stayed with him and his wife the night before the arrest, after the couple found her crying outside her home and she told them that her step-father had beaten her.
He said that when he arrived home from work with the man on the day of the arrest, the girl was still at his house with his wife and she had refused to see her father.
The neighbour said he had gone with the girl and his wife to his mother in-law’s house, before hearing “a commotion outside” where “a lot of people” who were carrying sticks had gathered.
“The commotion was about the man doing things to his daughter. They were all hitting him. There were a lot of faces, it was dark, about 6.30pm or 6.45pm,” he said.
He said the girl had earlier made allegations about the abuse to his wife and mother-in-law in a conversation he had heard snippets of.
“She said ‘if you don’t believe me, ask my father for the phone’ because she said everything he was doing to her was on the phone,” he said.
“I went to talk to him and I asked him where is his phone. His phone fell out of his pocket,” he said.
He said he found an array of “adult toys” including dildos, lingerie, an adult DVD titled Naughty Girls and condoms strewn around the man. The neighbour said he then told his wife to call the police.
He said the security firm Reaction Unit South Africa and a police van from Verulam police station had arrived at the property.
He said the man had not resisted arrest. The trial continues tomorrow.