EL man freed of rape conviction after two years in jail

Former university assistant lecturer Osiphesona Ngcanga, of East London, is free after spending two years in jail.
FALSELY ACCUSED: Former university assistant lecturer Osiphesona Ngcanga, of East London, is free after spending two years in jail.

An Mdantsane man sent to jail for eight years for rape, walked out of St Alban’s Prison in Port Elizabeth after spending two years for a crime he did not  commit.

The rape conviction ended 27-year-old Osiphesona Ngcanga’s life as an assistant lecturer of law at NMU and as a maritime law Masters student.

He was found guilty by PE magistrate Nolitha Bara of raping a “drunk and unconscious” commerce student at a 21st birthday party on February 11 2017 in Kabega Park, in Port Elizabeth..

But on January 14, Grahamstown high court judges S Rugananan and Buyiswa Majiki upheld his appeal and overturned Bara’s judgment.

Rugananan and Majiki found Bara had applied a “misdirected approach”. 

In their judgment, they said Ngcanga and the woman had been seen by one of six witnesses dancing together, laughing, flirting, kissing and talking to each outside a party attended by 17 people, many of them students.

Alcohol was consumed at the party.

One witness said the woman’s friends had disapproved and kept calling her back into the house but she had repeatedly returned to Ngcanga of her own accord, the judges found.

It had been alleged that the victim was raped while sleeping in a car outside the party venue.

The judges found that the evidence of a key state witnesses, who herself was drunk, to be unreliable and contradictory.

They said during cross-examination, upon being pressed about the complainant’s drunken state, the witness had said the complainant was “not drunk to the extent that she would stagger and fall”.

The judges found that “on the whole, a reading of her testimony does not inspire confidence that it is reliable”.

The judges also found that the evidence of a further two state witnesses’ testimonies were unreliable and inconsistent.

Rugananan said: “The magistrate’s overall approach to her evaluation of the evidence, and particularly the credibility findings in favour of the state witnesses, clearly overlooked the material shortcomings and discrepancies in their evidence and where it fell short of the onus.” 

The judges said the law was clear that consent was absent if a victim was unconscious, asleep, or under the influence of alcohol to the extent that the victim’s consciousness or judgment was adversely affected.

They said no evidence was produced to prove that “four glasses of wine and the mix of vodka and Coke consumed by the complainant caused her judgment or consciousness to be adversely affected”.

“Given that it was the complainant’s own evidence that this quantity of alcohol was not excessive, I think the mere consumption falls far short of proof beyond reasonable doubt that there was a diminution or impairment of her faculties in a sense that her sensibilities were either dulled or that she had an exuberant or over-optimistic frame of mind which caused her to take risks.”

Speaking to DispatchLIVE from his NU17 home, Ngcanga said all he wanted was to register at NMU to finish his Masters.

Ngcanga also said that at the time of the conviction, he had served as deputy president of Golden Key International Honours Society, and had been invited to overseas conferences in Boston, Atlanta, Paris, New Orleans and Dubai.

“I am also talking to my lawyers to see if the state can compensate me for the two years I spent in prison for a crime I did not commit.”