Friday, 3 October 2008

Charlene Makaza

I've been wanting to write something about Charlene Makaza for a while, because I think her unhappy and short life should be marked. I've been putting off writing about her, simply because the topic is such a sad one. It makes me look at my own healthy, happy children and think, 'There but for the grace of God...'.

Charlene Makaza was the adopted daughter of George Gwaze, who was acquitted in May of sexually violating and murdering the HIV positive 10-year-old child. Charlene was Gwaze's niece and an orphan, adopted by Gwaze and his wife after her parents died of AIDS. Their family emigrated to New Zealand to escape Zimbabwe under Mugabe. The Police alleged that one night, while Charlene's sister slept nearby in the same room, Gwaze had submitted the little girl to an 'horrific' sexual assault and suffocated her.

The jury were not swayed by the prosecution's arguments, and the actions of the Police were criticised on a number of grounds ( Within days of Charlene's death, the Police had told media that Charlene had been a healthy girl whose death was not the result of natural causes, and that her family had washed her bedding following a sexual assault. Police also informed media that they'd been briefed on the sexual beliefs of Africans, including the myth that sex with virgins cures AIDS. The incitement to racial animosity against 'those people' was pretty clear.

However, what the Police claimed were the effects of sexual assault and strangulation were, according to experts, the effects of AIDS on a gravely ill child. The Police were criticised for failing to obtain appropriate advice from a paediatric AIDS specialist. The prosecution's 'smoking gun' - a trace of semen found on Charlene's underpants - was most likely the result of an innocent transfer in the wash, according to another expert. On discovering how seriously ill the little girl was, the Gwazes had not rushed to wash away the evidence of any sexual assault, as was implied by the Police, but had in fact taken Charlene immediately to the doctor. George, whom the Police painted as a monster, held the little girl's hand and comforted her as she died.

What made me saddest about this case is that, somehow, in all of this, the utter tragedy of this little girl's death was lost. Charlene Makaza died a squalid and cruel death because she was poor, because she was the wrong colour and because she came from the wrong part of the world - because she was one of 'those people'.


Anonymous said...

Anna the police did the best with the evidence they had. The miror view is if they had taken the Gwaze story at face value we would be screaming police covering up a murder among black people..
what has poverty got to do with it. Charlene did not die because she was poor. she died because she had aids. Everything was done to save her and they were ready to transfer her to auckland.what more could have they done.

Lets face Anna the semen on panties was a big smoking gun.Where was the semen on T shirts socks and other smalls. NZ police did well- they were wrong but they had to do it to let he jury decide.
As soon as semen on pink panties were found- police had to take it to the bitter end.
Racism- No Anna just due process.Terrible strain on Gwaze and family but it had to be done.
May god bless the Gwazes- may they recover from such a tradegy.
Haiwa Tigere

Anna said...

Poverty has everything to do with AIDS. Prevention, education and treatment are all more or less available to people depending on how much money they have - hence the fact AIDS is ravaging much of Africa.

The Police strategically gave out information which misrepresented the cause of Charlene's death, and which suggested that Charlene had been the victim of what was presented as a ritualistic African form of child sex abuse. They were inviting the public to draw racist conclusions in order that they could get a conviction.

The semen stain was not a smoking gun. It was so small that one would not expect it to be found on all items in the wash. Exert testimony said that accidental transfer was quite possible.

Anonymous said...

The doctors and nurses said they saw a gaping rectal tear and even called in the "abuse "doctors. from that point on it was out of the police hands. they had to prosecute . people like me would have said the police are letting children being murdered on the face of the evidence at that time.the medical experts certainly believed(wrongly) the child had been abused. in hindsight (always accurate) these are the guys who showed the most incompetence who up to this day still say Charlene was murdered as far as i know.
When yu find a body with a bullethole in the head and the gun in the hand of the deceased- its normal to assume suicide unles you are watching "Colombo" or or monk an episod of CSI (then his dog might have shot him) i n life you probably right.
Now sperm on a pink panty- even MONK will have difficulty with that one.
If the doctors had not suggested abuse police would not have looked for semen on panties.
I got a daughter. Should i find any semen on my daughters panties I am going to jail for murder most foul.
The police were acting according to the evidence. Its the doctors and nurses who reduced a 7cm tear in the notes or comments to a 2mm tear at post mortem. These are the incompetent people.
As for sex with virginbs cures aids theory- we must be honest with ourselves and admit there is a section fo the african subcontyinent who belive this.Police will chase that up vigorously because they have to.

Gwaze family was a victim of such sa circumstances totally out of their control. I dont subscribe to the mbeki theory of aids.
Charlene should have been on Arvs were her HIV status suspected- that she was not is a slight mark against Gwaze family but one which again has benefit of hindsight.
12 months being condemened by the world not just NZ ( I am in australia)was unfair on Gwaze and most people still dont know he is free.
i have followed this story closely and was one who wanted gwazes privates cut off untill i saw the now defunct website.
haiwa tigere