|2012 08 21 Victory for mom of murdered child|
Durban - The Chatsworth mother of a girl who was kidnapped, indecently assaulted and strangled 17 years ago has won a crucial court case entitling families of crime victims to make "meaningful input" at the parole hearings of those jailed for committing the crimes.
Sharon Jeenabhai says the murder of Natasha, 10 – whose body was found at the home of neighbour Devapragasan Munsamy 36 hours after she disappeared – still haunts her.
She said the application before Judge Graham Lopes in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday to stop Munsamy's parole hearing, set down for on Tuesday, was not only for her, but also for her murdered daughter and for relatives of crime victims who were denied the right to proper access to parole hearings.
Although initially the parole board and the minister and commissioner of correctional service opposed the application, they agreed to the interdict on Monday and the parole hearing was rescheduled.
But more significant, said Jeenabhai's lawyer, Mahendra Chetty of Durban's Legal Resources Centre, it was a precedent-setting agreement that she was entitled to all relevant information and documentation before the board – including a full transcript of a hearing last November, documents submitted by Munsamy, reports of internal disciplinary offences and reports by social workers.
"These had all previously been denied to her. Through this they [other relatives of crime victims] now have a foot in the door...," he said.
Jeenabhai said her daughter was murdered in August 1995.
"We lived three houses away from Munsamy (who was then 17). She went to the tuck shop and it appears she was abducted at knife-point by Munsamy and his accomplice who then took her to Munsamy's house.
"Her body was found at the rear of his house 36 hours after her death, which included strangulation with a bandage."
After Munsamy was sentenced to 30 years, Jeenabhai said she tried to get on with her life but the murder had taken its toll.
Munsamy and his family had never expressed remorse until recently when a pastor approached Jeenabhai, asking if she would meet Munsamy.
Last year she had received an anonymous call saying Munsamy, who is jailed at Ncome Prison in Vryheid, would be applying for parole. The hearing had been set down for November and she tried to get it rescheduled so she could attend but it went ahead anyway.
Her lawyers asked for a transcript of the hearing and for documents but the only document provided was an initial profile report observing that Munsamy was "notorious".
Even an application in terms of the Promotion to Access to Information Act failed because, the authorities said, it involved a third party (Munsamy) and his consent was needed.
She argued that Munsamy had no real right to privacy.