Nicholas Ninow, dros rapist stands accused of raping a seven-year-old girl at a restaurant in Pretoria. During his court appearance on Tuesday, keen-eyed members of the public picked up some dubious details.
As photographs of the suspected rapist’s court appearance begin to surface, some members of the public are crying foul, arguing that Ninow should have been shackled. Unfortunately, as is often the case within the context of South Africa’s current racially heated climate, people are saying Ninow avoided leg shackles because of his white privilege.
Nicholas Ninow’s rape case, racialised from the start
This isn’t the first time the horrific incident has been marred by racial undertones. Some social media users were quick to point out that Ninow’s identity had been withheld due to the fact that he’s a 20-year-old white man facing charges of rape.
This, they said, was proof that ‘white-owned media’ only pushed a certain racial agenda by depicting rapes in South Africa as being solely committed by black men.
This rhetoric backfired. In reality, the law prohibits the identity of an accused being made public prior to the suspect’s court appearance and plea. Furthermore, legal experts and government officials blasted social media users and media outlets for revealing the accused’s identity pre-trial, by sharing images and videos of Ninow in the public domain.
This breach of legality, including the sharing of a video which allegedly shows the moments after the crime took place, has, according to experts, the propensity to damage the state’s case against Ninow.
— Man’s Not Barry Roux (@AdvBarryRoux) October 2, 2018
Nicholas Ninow and the shackle debate
Yet, the racial debate surrounding Ninow still persists. This time, the question is: If fees must fall, activist, Mcebo Dlamini and corruption accused Duduzane Zuma were both shackled for their separate court appearances, why was rapist accused Ninow not?
Legal experts explain regulations surrounding shackles
Speaking to 702 Talk Radio, South African Police Services (SAPS) spokesperson, Vish Naidoo, confirmed that there was no singular policy with regards to the shackling of the accused when appearing in court, saying:
“Regarding shackling of awaiting trails detainees that are going to court, there is no specific policy on that. There is a policy that speaks to the restraining of suspects when arrested and being transported from point A to point B.
When it comes to an accused that is appearing in court, the prerogative is on the investigating officer first and foremost to make a determination as to whether that suspect or awaiting trial detainee may be in restraints when being brought before the court.
— Pepè (@Nape_MM) October 2, 2018
And that would be informed by the level of threat that suspect poses in terms of causing danger to himself or herself or danger to anybody else in their vicinity.”
Naaido argued that every case that appears before the judge is handled according to individual factors, explaining:
“A second scenario is when a court would place such a rule like the one of Duduzane Zuma. That court had experienced challenges in the past where suspects escaped. So the court made a ruling that every suspect that will appear there will be in restraints.
Every case has to be treated with its own merits in any other court and that determination will be made by the investigating officer base on whether the suspect may be a flight risk or pose danger.”
Shackles have been described as inhumane
Also speaking to 702 Talk Radio, attorney and former prosecutor Marius Du Toit said that the general issue of shackled suspects was one of hot debate. Du Toit explained that high courts had already requested the abolishment of leg shackles, saying:
“They have come clear to say that it is extremely undesirable practice to bring the person in shackles because this person has a right to be treated with dignity, has a right to be receiving a fair trial.
Our courts have said it is something that should be stopped and it should not be allowed. The High Court in Pretoria has gone on to say if you continue doing it, it will start of contempt of court proceedings against you for bringing people in shackles.”
Ninow will return to Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Thursday 1 November.