DURBAN – The community of KwaMashu are outraged and disappointed by the justice system as cases of gender-based violence and violence against children continue to rise. Community activists labelled it a crisis.
The latest casualty was an eight-year-old girl, her assailant was allegedly the 61-year-old caretaker of the building where she lives.
She is allegedly his sixth victim.
He appeared in Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday to apply for bail but the case was remanded to Tuesday over discrepancies with his personal information.
A few weeks prior four-year-old, Minenhle Sanelisiwe Mhlongo was found in bushes after she was allegedly raped and stabbed to death by a 15-year-old relative who has since been arrested.
A month ago two women, who were also found in bushes in KwaMashu, were both shot in the head.
The single mother of the eight-year-old said she was fearful that her daughter’s alleged rapist would be granted bail and be set loose on the community.
“I saw my daughter leave his office and asked what she was doing and she said she was told to never speak of what happened, I kept asking and then she told me but that this was not the first time. From there we went to the clinic, then Mahatma Gandhi Hospital and then opened a case at the police station. This nightmare began about two weeks ago,” she said.
But what scared the mother was just how many other parents had similar stories.
“People are left feeling hopeless and desperate as they don’t know where to turn to as cases have dragged on or perpetrators have been granted bail. There are just too many victims. We started a petition to ensure we get justice that has over 500 signatures.”
Community leader, Vusi Makhanya, from the KwaMashu School of Dance, said the scourge had gone on far too long and that now was the time for the community to rally together.
“We all have a role to play, we must provide support to families who don’t know where to turn to and show these monsters that they cannot escape justice. The mother of the eight-year-old girl reached out to me and I have been doing my best to support and be there for them. We have to be there for each other.”
For two weeks now, protesters have rallied outside the court to provide support to victims and their families. They chant, dance and use placards to show that the community is behind them.
Member of provincial legislature Zinhle Cele said she had been attending the various court cases since last Friday.
“KwaMashu is my constituency and I care for the community and a spotlight must be shone on this crisis. Children are found dead in bushes, a woman was burned alive by her husband, a four-year-old was raped and murdered and now we have this eight-year-old. She was not his first, his youngest victim was allegedly four-years-old and this happened in 2015. Bail cannot be allowed to be granted to rapists and murders. They are animals and do not belong in society.”
Remona Mckenzie from the DA’s Women’s Network also attended the rally and said courts are far too lenient.
“This is about the human rights and dignity of these women and children who are crying out for support and justice but by granting bail to their assailants it is like a slap in the face. This postponed of the case will draw out the anxiety and suffering of this young girl and her mother.”
Jennifer Fisher from the Women and Men of Valour, which is part of a larger provincial network of about 300 civil bodies, said KwaMashu had become a hotspot for GBV and child rape.
“This is a crisis, it is a war that we are fighting. We need to be more proactive than reactive. Yes, awareness must be created but aftercare is just as important. Victims and their families require counselling and all the support they can get to be able to live healthy lives.”