Cape Town – Six months after being cleared of assault, the Sans Souci Girls’ High School Grade 9 teacher who slapped a pupil during a February classroom altercation has been charged again.
According to a summons served on her on Tuesday by police without any National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) notice, Clarissa Venter, 34, must appear at the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on March 11 on a charge of common assault.
The out-of-the-blue decision has blindsided Venter’s attorney William Booth, who last year told Weekend Argus how he spent months in representations before the charge was dropped.
“I’m extremely taken aback that the case has been reopened,” he said. “In my view they can’t recharge my client. The case was withdrawn by the chief Wynberg prosecutor, an experienced lawyer, who considered all the merits and applied his mind.
“His conclusion was the same as mine: there was insufficient evidence. Based on the merits of the case, there was no reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution.
“I’m in the dark about the reasons for this latest decision as I was not informed by the NPA that the case had been reopened, which is highly unusual as it wasn’t a provisional withdrawal. It was a final withdrawal.”
The NPA was tight-lipped. “We are not in a position to confirm whether charges have been reinstated against Ms Venter and the reasons behind that decision,” said spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila.
The pupil’s mother, who cannot be named to protect her child’s identity, said she had not yet been told that Venter was due back in the dock. “I guess it’s the just the law taking its course. I don’t know right now what to think or how I feel about it,” she said.
Last year, Booth said that Venter was provoked and attacked and had acted lawfully.
“The provocation included the behaviour of the child. She was asked to leave the class several times after she disobeyed my client who told her not to use her cellphone in the classroom. She refused to leave, pushed the desk up against my client and then lunged at her to attack her. Based on that, my client felt she acted lawfully.”
The Wynberg prosecutor had also taken into account that Venter “had been through a significant amount of stress and trauma with court appearances and social media and media exposure”.
“And then the child’s mother brought an application before the Equality Court against my client and the Western Cape and national ministers of Education and Sans Souci, saying they were all racist in dealing with the incident,” said Booth.
In dropping the charge, Booth said the State acknowledged Venter’s “standing at Sans Souci, where she is held in high regard by the teachers, parents and pupils”.