South Africa

'Court did not fail murdered mom and daughter': public protector

'Court did not fail murdered mom and daughter': public protector

A magistrate's court has been cleared of alleged improper conduct and maladministration after claims that a mother, who was killed with her daughter, was turned away when she sought a protection order.

Deputy justice minister John Jeffery asked the office of the public protector to probe the allegations against the Bellville magistrate's court in Cape Town after the death of Altecia Kortje and her daughter Raynishia, 7, on June 12 2020.

They were allegedly killed by Kortje’s partner, 28-year-old Kyle Smith. Jeffery’s request was prompted by media reports that claimed that officials at the court had turned Kortje away.

On Wednesday, acting public protector Kholeka Gcaleka revealed the outcomes of her office’s investigation into the allegations. Gcaleka found that the allegations had no merit. Her probe traced Kortje’s steps.  

“In essence, it was alleged that the failure by the officials at the court to assist Ms Kortje with her application for a protection order was improper, constitutes maladministration and prejudiced her and her family,” Gcaleka said in a statement.

“From the evidence obtained during the investigation it is concluded that the late Ms Kortje visited the court around midday on June 8 2020 to apply for a protection order in terms of the Domestic Violence Act.

“Her name was placed on the list of complainants at the protection order section of the court. She was attended to by a clerk who provided the application form to her to complete and provided her with an explanation in connection with her application, the involvement of social workers and that the respondent would have to appear in court.”

Gcaleka said the evidence she obtained from the two senior clerks who were on duty in the protection order section on the day showed that proper procedure was followed — though they did not specifically remember Kortje.

“It is also evident from the records of the court that several applications were processed on June 8 2020 and interim protection orders issued,” said Gcaleka.

“Ms Kortje left the court about an hour after her arrival without having completed and submitted the application form for further assistance.

“Her explanation to Ms NG Dolf, who had accompanied her to the court on that day, was that she did not expect that it would be a long process to obtain the protection order and there was too much to write.

“It is not clear whether Ms Kortje intended to complete the form and to return to the court with her application. According to her mother, the late Ms Kortje had to go to work the next day and did not return home on June 10 2020. She was later found dead.”

Gcaleka concluded: “There is no evidence indicating that Ms Kortje was turned away by the court when she wanted to apply for the protection order.

“The evidence shows that she was assisted at the protection order section and requested to complete the prescribed application form. She also did not indicate to Ms Dolf or her parents that she was not assisted by the officials at the court to complete the application process.”

The acting public protector said it could not be “established with certainty why Ms Kortje decided not to wait to be assisted with submitting her application after having completed the form, but to return home”.

Before announcing the finding, Gcaleka visited Kortje’s family in Delft — not far from the court — on Wednesday.

“We communicated to them the contents of this report and assured them that the tragic passing of Ms Kortje and her daughter Raynecia has spurred us on to take up the cudgels on behalf of all other victims of gender-based violence in society,” Gcaleka said.

Kortje was stabbed several times in her home in Belhar. Raynishia was drowned in a bathtub. Smith was arrested in connection with the double murder.