S v MBOKAZI 2017 (1) SACR 317 (KZP)

Evidence — Witness — Oath — Admonition to speak the truth — Child explaining in own words what she understood by truth and lies — Her explanation, together with manner of testifying, indicating that requirements of ss 162 and 164 of Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 met.


The appellant appealed against his conviction in a regional magistrates’ court, of the rape of a 12-year-old girl and the sentence of life imprisonment imposed upon him. He contended that the complainant, who testified through an intermediary, had not been properly admonished by the trial court, in that the relevant enquiry held by the magistrate was superficial. Therefore, he argued, it could not be said whether the magistrate had established if the witness knew the difference between the truth and a lie. When the complainant was asked by the regional magistrate what it meant to tell the truth, she replied, ‘Telling the truth is saying something that is straight and something that is understandable’, and when she was asked what it meant to tell lies, she responded, ‘It’s speaking something that is not understandable. Someone . . . would not even know what you are saying.’

Held, that it was clear from the extract from the record that the magistrate had determined that the complainant understood what it meant to tell the truth. Her response basically meant that if you lied it was something that you manufactured, a figment of your imagination, and something that people would not understand, as it was not in existence or an untruth.


Held, further, that the finding that she was competent to give evidence was also reinforced by the manner in which she gave evidence. It was clear, and her answers to cross-examination questions reflected her maturity and competency. The judicial officer did not superficially carry out her duties and there was sufficient compliance with the provisions of ss 162 and 164 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977. The complainant was a competent witness and her evidence was admissible. The appeal against the conviction had to be dismissed.


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