More rape charges have been added to eight already existing against the Khayelitsha dance teacher accused of raping pupils aged between five and 12 the Khayelitsha Regional Court heard on Monday.
While about 150 people demonstrated outside court, accused Mlulami Gagu, 42, abandoned his Legal Aid Board lawyer because she cannot speak Xhosa, with Gagu telling the court he struggled to understand her as she could only consult in English.
Gagu said interpreters were also not helpful.
From the initial eight rape charges Gagu faced, state prosecutor Emma Mahamose told the court nine more had been added, bringing the total number to17.
Mahamose said the state’s investigation was complete and was ready to commence with trail.
But Presiding magistrate Gaynor De Wee postponed the case until next month to allow the Legal Aid Board to organise a defence lawyer who could speak Xhosa.
A mother of one of the victims, who cannot be named in order to protect her daughter’s identity, told De Wee that she knows Gagu can speak English well and the courts should not believe him when he said he can only speak Xhosa.
De Wee responded that “there are certain procedures that need to be followed. If these are not done (properly) the High Court can decide this case is null and void”.
She said if Gagu was convicted on all 17 charges he would face 17 life sentences “so it is important that everybody to follow and understand the procedures”.
The state alleges that Gagu raped 17 girls between the ages of five and 12-years-old during the period 2009 until his arrest in February last year.
The rapes are alleged to have taken place in a Khayelitsha hall where he gave dancing lessons to school girls.
The rapes only came to light at the beginning of February last year when one of the victims told a friend of their ordeal, following which the friend told a teacher who reported the matter to the police.
Upon hearing the news, 29 other parents came forward claiming Gagu had raped their daughters.
However, only 17 statements have been provided.
According to Mahamose, Gagu would ask two of the girls to stay behind after class to help clean up and then lock the door and rape them. He allegedly then bribed or threatened them not to tell their parents. — Sandiso Phaliso