Sex crime accused appears in court

Overcome Heights residents protested outside court last week against an accused rapist.

It was a tough week in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court last week as children took to the stand to testify against a Muizenberg man who allegedly paid them to have sex with him.

Theo Hartzenberg was arrested in May 2021 when children from Overcome Heights, Capricorn, Seawinds and surrounding areas told their parents of a man who would give them money in exchange for sexual acts. He allegedly paid them to have sex with him at the Muizenberg beach dunes and bungalows.

He initially appeared at Muizenberg Magistrate’s Court but the case has since been moved to Wynberg Magistrate’s Court where he pleaded not guilty to 25 counts of sexual offences involving boys under the age of 18 and the man appeared in court twice last week in order for some of the children to testify. He has been released on R10 000 bail under the condition that he doesn’t enter Muizenberg or has any contact with the victims.

Southern Mail spoke to two parents of two of the boys who were allegedly sexually assaulted by the man – their names were withheld to protect the identity of the minors.

The mothers said their sons have been severely affected by what happened to them and their friends two years ago.

“Things have never been the same since all of this happened and our children have never been the same again,” said the mother of one of the boys who was 13 at the time of the incident. “It completely messed up my child’s life. He is aggressive and has become violent at home so it is clearly still affecting him.”

The now 15-year old’s mother said she wishes the court system would move faster: “He needs to be sentenced and put away so that he won’t be able to do it to any other child. He’s currently out on bail but we want him behind bars because that’s where he belongs.”

Another mother, whose son was 10 when he was allegedly approached by the suspect, said her son has also shown aggression and was suspended from school after testifying in court.

“My son testified and was retraumatised by the process because he was very emotional and cried. He was suspended from school right after the court case and I think it’s because he relived all those feelings and trauma all over again. I don’t know what to do at this point and I’m hoping that there will be some help for our children so that they can heal and find healthy ways to cope with what happened to them.”

She added that there has been no counselling for any of the children since the incident.

“We see every day how it affects them and that has an effect on the whole family because we’ve tried to get help for them and we’ve tried to talk to them about it but they need professional help.”

The mother also wants swift justice for her son and his friends.

Overcome Heights community leader Karen Mentoor.

“This man is a lawyer, he knows the law and he’s supposed to serve and protect, yet he did this to our children. He groomed them over a matter of time and got away with it for a long time so we want him imprisoned for the crimes he committed against our children.”

Overcome Heights community worker Karen Mentoor, who has been supporting the victim’s parents since the story broke in 2021 and has been protesting at court when the suspect appears, said it is a tragedy that no counselling help has been made available for the children.

“It’s been almost two years and the children are having a very difficult time which is understandable, they went through a lot but we are hoping to get them help as soon as possible.”

She said they, parents and the community members of Overcome Heights will continue to protest at court.

“This man is currently on bail but we want him prosecuted and imprisoned because what he did to those children has heavily affected them and has probably left very deep trauma. We do not want him out doing even more damage to other children,” said Ms Mentoor.

Mr Hartzenberg will appear in court again in June. Eric Ntabazalila, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson, said the case was postponed for further trial until 5, 6 and 7 June as well as 5 and 6 July.

Southern Mail has reached out to a few organisations for counselling help for the boys. Anyone willing to help or provide counselling can contact Karyn Mentoor on 073 559 3015.