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Namibian
Second patient accuses psychiatrist of rape
By Werner Menges
December 9, 2019

Psychiatrist Pieter van der Westhuizen

Psychiatrist Pieter van der Westhuizen

A SWAKOPMUND-BASED psychiatrist who is being prosecuted over allegations that he raped one of his patients is now fighting to keep evidence about similar claims made by a second woman out of his trial in the Windhoek High Court.

A former patient of psychiatrist Pieter van der Westhuizen contacted the police in July, after the start of his trial on rape charges, and claimed that she, too, had been sexually assaulted by him, acting judge Eileen Rakow has been informed during Van der Westhuizen’s trial.

With the police now investigating the woman’s claim, the prosecution wants to call her as a witness to testify about a part of the defence that Van der Westhuizen has raised in response to the charges on which he is being prosecuted.

South African senior counsel Stephen Farrell, who is Van der Westhuizen’s defence counsel, has objected to the state’s plan to present the woman’s testimony to acting judge Rakow. Farrell argued last week that the woman’s testimony would be irrelevant in respect of the charges Van der Westhuizen is facing, would also be prejudicial to him and his right to a fair trial, and that her allegations are not credible.

State advocate Palmer Kumalo argued on Friday that the testimony would be relevant, as it is meant to disprove part of Van der Westhuizen’s defence, and that the state should be allowed to present her testimony to the court.

Acting judge Rakow has reserved her ruling on the issue. The ruling is scheduled to be given on 5 February.

Van der Westhuizen (63) denied guilt on three counts of rape, a charge of indecent assault and a charge of attempted murder, alternatively using drugs to overpower a woman so that he could have unlawful intercourse with her, when his trial commenced at the start of July.

All of the charges are based on allegations that he sexually assaulted one of his female patients in his consulting rooms at Swakopmund on 7 November 2015.

In a 31-page plea explanation that was provided to the judge after he gave his plea, Van der Westhuizen claimed the complainant in the case acquired “a false memory of indecent assault and rape” as a result of a past experience of childhood sexual abuse, combined with the effect of medication that she took as part of a session of drug-assisted psycho-analysis known as narco-analysis, during her visit to his consulting rooms on 7 November 2015.

Van der Westhuizen also stated that he suffers from erectile dysfunction, and has not been able to have penetrative sexual intercourse since about 2010.

The woman who contacted the police in July made a sworn statement to a police officer on 2 August. In that statement, she alleged that Van der Westhuizen raped her on 2 July 2015 by having non-consensual penetrative sexual intercourse with her, the court has been informed.

Farrell argued that by presenting such evidence to the court, the state would at most be able to prove that Van der Westhuizen was able to have an erection in July 2015, but that would prove nothing about his ability or inability to have an erection in November 2015.

He also argued that the woman making the allegations suffers from serious and complex psychiatric conditions, and has previously been found to have a severe impairment of verbal and visual memory. Farrel further noted that before she alleged that Van der Westhuizen raped her, the woman made an inconsistent sworn statement in which she said she and Van der Westhuizen had been involved in a consensual intimate relationship.

In response to Farrell’s argument, Kumalo argued that the woman’s credibility can be tested when she testifies. Her testimony is relevant and admissible, he argued.

Van der Westhuizen was arrested and charged in November 2016. He remains free on bail in an amount of N$10 000.