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By Enkosi Selane

Digital Journalist

Ex-soldier found guilty of intentionally infecting partner with HIV

The court accepted expert testimony which stated that HIV is an “incurable and fatal disease”.

In a landmark verdict, a former South African National Defence Force (SANDF) member, Leon Santos Conga, has been convicted of attempted murder and rape for deliberately infecting his former partner, Antoinette Ndishishi, with HIV.

Sitting at the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court, Magistrate Fikiswa Ntlati delivered the verdict on Tuesday.

Rape and attempted murder

Ntlati found Conga guilty of two charges, one of rape and another of attempted murder in failing to disclose his HIV status to Ndishishi.

Ndishishi, who was represented by AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, was infected by Conga despite his knowledge of his HIV status since 2007.

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News24 reported that medical records proved that the accused tested positive for HIV at a SANDF sickbay in Phalaborwa in October 2007.

“Further laboratory testing confirmed his positive status.”

According to AfriForum, after years of trying to obtain Conga’s medical records, the unit eventually succeeded in securing the conviction by obtaining Conga’s medical records, which revealed his awareness of his status.

Ntlathi asserted that there was evidence that the former SANDF member knew about his status as well as its repercussions.

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“He knowingly failed to disclose his HIV-positive status to his former partner, who is the complainant in this matter.

“He thereby misled the complainant into engaging in sexual activities, knowing full well she was HIV-negative at the time,” Ntlathi added.

‘HIV is an incurable and fatal disease’

The victim acknowledged consenting to unprotected sex with Conga. However Ndishishi said she only consented to sex under the assumption that he was HIV negative.

The court accepted her testimony that she would not have agreed to sex if she had known the truth.

Moreover, the court also accepted expert testimony which stated that HIV is an “incurable and fatal disease”.

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In accepting the victim’s argument Ntlati said Ndishishi was a credible witness who made a good impression to the court by answering all questions directly and clearly.

“Despite her testifying after at least four years since the incident took place, she gave a clear and a detailed account of what transpired. She didn’t contradict herself on any aspect. She remained consistent and unshaken and did not deviate from her version even during cross-examination. She was credible, and in the opinion of this court, no criticism can be levelled against her,” Ntlati added.

Justice served on HIV case

Furthermore, Ndishishi, who has been seeking justice since 2018, expressed relief and gratitude towards the Private Prosecution Unit.

“I feel like I got justice because he was found guilty on both counts, attempted murder and rape. Honestly, hearing the words of the magistrate convict him and find him guilty, I actually cried.”

Adv. Gerrie Nel, head of the Private Prosecution Unit, hailed the verdict as a significant development in understanding consent.

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“It has demonstrated that the establishment of the Private Prosecution Unit is critical to ensuring justice for victims of crime.”

The case has been postponed to August 7, 2024, for sentence argument.

Ndishishi shared hopes of her case inspiring other women to come forward and report similar incidents, despite the fear of stigma and discrimination.

“They shouldn’t be afraid. I believe such people need to be locked up.”

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