Following the rape of a 15-year-old mentally disabled girl in Harare, Khayelitsha, on Thursday last week, two suspects narrowly escaped being beaten to death when a group of women caught them the following day.
The men, aged 27 and 29, were saved by police who took them into custody.
The case was put in the spotlight on Monday when the suspects made their first appearance in the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court where they faced charges of rape.
The gang-rape allegedly rape took place in one of the shacks in 35 Section the pair were asked by a neighbour to look after while the neighbour away for a period of time.
When the girl’s rape came to light when one of the residents informed the community that they had seen the girl exiting the shack with two men.
The girl’s family was informed and they then called the police and took the girl to the Site B Day Hospital where she was examined and a doctor confirmed she had been raped.
As the news of the incident spread, a number of women gathered to search for the suspects on Friday after the police failed to make any arrests the previous day.
A woman who asked not to named said she took part in the search for the suspects.
She said one of the suspects had been acquitted on charges of raping a 12-year-old girl last year.
“We don’t know what happened to that case, rumours are he won it because there was not enough evidence,” she said.
The woman said they first went to the shack where the incident occurred but could not find the suspects.
“We decided to spread out but with no luck. As men came back from work they joined the search.
She said one of the men received a tip-off and managed to find the two suspects who were hauled before the community.
“The mother of a child was asked to beat them first, she beat them with a stick. We all joined in… we beat them with sticks, sjambok and stones. We were so angry because the girl he raped last year was also disabled. The family had to take her to a place of safety because of them,” said the woman.
The girl’s 42-year-old mother said she could not believe that her daughter had been raped.
“What hurt me the most is the fact that I know these boys and they knew my child, that’s why they managed to take her into their shack,” she said.
She said her daughter was playing on street before she was taken to the shack and raped.
“It was around six in the afternoon. Residents came into my house to tell me that my child was raped. I asked her what happened but she was too scared to tell me, but told another woman. I called the cops, we spent the night in hospital for her to be checked. The doctor confirmed she was raped and I informed the community,” she said.
Eye-witnesses said if the police hadn’t arrived when the men were being beaten on Friday, the suspects would have been killed.
Residents said they will march to court to oppose bail at the next court date, saying they were not aware the pair appeared in court yesterday.
Magistrate Carmen Winegaard postponed the bail application for May 28.
Social Development minister’s spokesperson Melany Kuhn said disabled children in informal settlements often did not get access to available services and were often left unprotected at home while parents had to work.
Kuhn said the Department was at the moment working with the NGO Uhambo to identify disabled children at risk and put their families in touch with the department, and also provide training on how best to care for the child.
She said counselling and support services would be made available for the rape victim through partner organisations such as Rape Crisis. – Nombulelo Damba