'Raped' at 11, mother defends suspect

• Suspect ‘groomed girl’ for  years

• Told her to ‘keep their secret’

By Marianne Nghidengwa and Aina Kweyo

A mother whose 15-year-old daughter was allegedly sexually abused and raped by her boyfriend over a period of nearly five years has reportedly blamed the teenager for it, saying the child seduced her abuser. The mother also encouraged her boyfriend (the father of her youngest child, a boy aged 1 year and eight months) to go for therapy but turned a blind eye to her traumatised daughter’s well-being.

The mother allegedly said she had worked hard on the relationship and was not willing to leave and was allegedly prepared to continue her relationship with the man accused of repeatedly raping her only daughter.

This came amid shocking revelations in the Windhoek Magistrates Court on Tuesday by renowned social worker Dr Veronica Theron, who assessed the reported rape victim and spoke at length with the girl and her parents last month. Theron works as special advisor in the Office of the First Lady, heading up the anti-gender-based violence programme.

Theron was giving her account before Magistrate Linus Samunzala during the bail hearing of Tobias Mareko (36), who faces a charge of rape following nearly five years of allegedly repeatedly raping his girlfriend’s daughter in a home they shared in Windhoek.

Court documents state that Mareko sexually violated the girl since she was 11 years-old between 2015 and 2019. The girl is now 15. Medical reports show that the girl’s hymen is no longer intact, an indication that she may have been sexually active.

Theron said she met the victim on 26 August after the teen’s father reached out for help. The father was in a frantic state that prompted her to leave her job without delay to see him. She said the teenager narrated in detail what Mareko did, a man she had trusted and considered a father.

Theron said the ordeal left the girl emotionally numb, a sign of deep trauma. “She told the story as if it happened to someone else and not to her. That is a sign of trauma.” She said the girl was more worried about the well-being of her mother and the alleged abuser than herself.

“She is aware that they were in a relationship and have a son together and as such feared what would happen to her abuser, her mother and little brother now that the matter is known.”

The girl related that the sexual abuse started with Mareko getting into her bed and ultimately progressed to him touching her inappropriately on her breasts, buttocks and finally her private parts. The touching went on for some time when she was 11 years-old until she turned 15.

She narrated that the incidents happened when her mother went for boot camp, where she was mostly dropped off by Mareko. He would then return home knowing he would be alone with the girl.

At times, he would allegedly sexually harass her when her mother was asleep. This she said happened at least four times a week. She said after touching her inappropriately, it soon progressed to sexual intercourse. Theron said the girl narrated in detail what Mareko did to her, things girls her age would normally not know. Theron believes it is highly unlikely that she picked it up from a movie or read about it.

Theron said that it was possible that Mareko groomed the girl and made her promise not to tell anyone. She also briefly spoke to the girl’s mother, who claimed that she knew only about Mareko inappropriately touching her daughter and had arranged for him to see a psychologist as a result.

Theron added that the girl was greatly hurt when her mom supported the suspect but did nothing for the child’s wellbeing. She said the mother also made the victim speak to the suspect while he was in custody. “The mother did not sit her daughter down to talk about the matter. She only acted after the victim told her paternal aunt about the matter, who in turn approached the girl’s mother.”

Theron said the mother also revealed that she was worried about her boyfriend, as he had threatened to commit suicide. She reached out to his friends asking them to check on him. In the process of helping her boyfriend she, however, failed to get her daughter examined. “The mother was siding with the suspect, something that worried the child. She loves her mother and was worried about her.”

Theron said the girl was soon removed from her mother’s care and placed into the care of her paternal aunt to get the support she needed as she was facing exams at the time. Theron testified that the girl’s maternal family had a meeting about the matter where the mother allegedly indicated that her boyfriend was only accused of inappropriately touching her daughter and that no sexual intercourse happened.

Theron said the child overheard her mother often speaking to the suspect and friends over the phone and blaming her for seducing the suspect.

“The child overheard her mother on the phone with the suspect and friends blame her (the victim) for seducing the suspect and that she only approached the police after the suspect rejected her attempts.  The child feels as though she is the liar and the one at fault. She feels judged for what is happening, especially after overhearing her mom to a point she chose not to live with her own mom.

“The mother said that she worked hard on her relationship with the suspect and had no intentions to find another man. She added she will work hard on the relationship. The child has a big sense of betrayal from her mother and has self-blame. She feels guilty for his arrest and the position it put her mother in.”

As a trained social worker with 25 years’ experience, Theron said there was no motive for the girl to lie, given the detailed account she gave of what happened.

“She narrated that he made her sit on top of him and told her what to do and how to do it. The sexual assault was not aggressive. He groomed her because she lived with him and trusted him. He groomed her over a period of time. The mom did not act in the best interest of the child. She did not try to protect her child. She failed to protect the child. Instead of protecting the child, she afforded the suspect to go for therapy.”

Theron believes that if released on bail, Mareko could influence the victim: “He would definitely try to influence and silence the minor child.” She said bail should be denied in the public interest and to prevent sexual violation of children in general.

It was reported at the end of August that 26 minors were raped in the foregoing two months. “There is a public perception that we are not doing enough to protect our children,” said Theron, adding that the State has a strong case against the suspect.

In support of his bail application, Mareko said he intends to pursue further studies after dropping out in the second year of a diploma course in finance and accounting at NUST in 2006. He also wants to continue caring for his son, elderly father and other dependents if granted bail. Mareko said he would hand in his passport and would not apply for emergency travel documents.   

He is currently employed as an ICT logistics coordinator in First National Bank’s IT department, a position he held since 2007. He said after the girl’s mother informed him he was accused of sleeping with an underage child, he terminated their relationship and moved out of the flat they shared for five years.

He further said he never contacted the victim and only spoke to the girl’s mother regarding his son. He intends to plead not guilty to the charge because there is no solid evidence against him. “I was never caught by anyone having sexual intercourse with the minor and she never fell pregnant by me,” he said.

Asked why he wants bail, Mareko said: “I want to go back to work to continue supporting my son, father and other dependents. I want to continue my career and pursue part-time studies next year. Due to changes in the company, one has to diversify, hence the need to study.”

His defense counsel, Jan Wessels, said should his client be granted bail, he is able to pay N$25 000 and would report himself to the police three times a week. As he has no relatives outside Windhoek, he has no reason to travel outside the capital and would make no contact with the victim, directly or indirectly.

The State represented by Prosecutor Rowan van Wyk argued that Mareko was in a protective position as man of the house. He only went for therapy on his girlfriend’s request and not on his version of personal problems he experienced. He chose not to comment on that assertion.

The State held that he is a flight risk as he has only roughly N$120 000 worth of assets, including a car, cellphone, lounge suite, TV set and bed in Windhoek. “That’s what you stand to lose if you flee once granted bail. That makes you a flight risk.”

Mareko agreed that the charges against him were serious but chose not to comment when told he faces a possible custodial sentence for allegedly having unlawful intercourse with a minor. Despite him denying that he was in a position to influence witnesses, the State noted that he was in contact with the girl and her mother.

“I don’t want my son to grow up without a father figure and I still want to be able to provide for my father who depends on me,” Mareko pleaded, but the State objected to bail on the grounds that he might abscond, or interfere with witnesses and investigations. His release would also not be in the interest of the public and administration of justice because of the seriousness of the case, it was argued.

The continuation of Theron’s testimony in Mareko’s bail application was held in camera on Wednesday.  Bail submissions will be made on Friday.