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October 2, 2013

Was Justice Served For Murdered Baby Samantha?

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I cannot even begin to imagine the trauma that little 10-month-old Samantha went through as she was raped, anally probed, and abused so badly that she had broken ribs, a fractured skull, and liver damage. And all this done to her by her parents.

Samantha’s parents, Adriaan Netto and his girlfriend, were sentenced in court on October 2, 2013, for culpable homicide, child abuse, and rape. They were sentenced four years for culpable homicide, three for child abuse, and 15 for rape. The homicide and rape sentences would run at the same time.

As he sentenced the couple, Judge Majeke Mabesele said he hoped his sentence would serve as a reminder to communities that children’s rights may not be violated. The couple would have faced life sentences, but he has expressed concern for their other children.

I am not only disgusted that there are people like this on this good green earth, but that the punishment meted out was not more severe. I understand that children need their parents, but do they really need parents who can do such unspeakable things to a defenceless child? Bear in mind that a 10-month-old has almost just started walking? And also, won’t the children be without their parents in any case if they are to be jailed for 18 years?

But this is just the problem with South Africa’s justice system. Though we have seen major leaps and bounds in the sentencing of criminals, I believe that sentences regarding sexual assault simply have no consistency.
A quick survey of some of the reported cases on a local news site in just the last month shows that sentences varying drastically: 8 years10 years15 years18 years20 years; and even life.

How can a justice system with so many different sentences for the horrific crime of rape be sending a clear message that rape and assault of women and children will not be tolerated? Despite the call from people around the country, including the Minister for Women, Children andDisabilities, Lulu Xingwana, the children of this country are the ones who truly have to suffer.

Is there also a major issue with our social services? In another case from earlier this year, Bradley Connor and Malinda Marshall were found guilty for the assault of their child, who died a blind quadriplegic as a result of his injuries. In October 2003, he was admitted to hospital, and concerns were raised that he had been abused. A social worker decided he should return to his parents, but in the next month, he was admitted to hospital again, and was found to have brain damage, be blind, and bruised.

I also think that people are too afraid to report suspected abuse. In the Netto case, one of Samantha's caregivers could see the neglect, but as I understand it, she did not report it to anyone.

Do you think the sentence against Netto and his girlfriend is apt? 

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