Po­lice ig­nore rape of girl, 3, for four days

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By PHILANI NOMBEMBE

● It took her four days and five at­tempts to re­port the rape of her three-year-old daugh­ter to the po­lice. When of­fi­cers fi­nally ar­rived at her home, they brought the al­leged rapist with them to de­mand why she was “spread­ing ru­mours” about him — and they then left him there.

The dis­traught Khayelit­sha, Cape Town, mother opened up to the Sun­day Times about her hell of last week­end when she was sent from one po­lice sta­tion to an­other in her des­per­ate at­tempt to get of­fi­cers to take her se­ri­ously. It was only af­ter her elder daugh­ter vented her fam­ily’s frus­tra­tion on so­cial me­dia, prompt­ing a pub­lic out­cry, that the po­lice acted.

The woman’s story about the po­lice’s cal­lous in­dif­fer­ence comes in the week that SA’s dis­mal crime sta­tis­tics were re­leased in par­lia­ment. Po­lice min­is­ter Bheki Cele re­vealed that sex­ual of­fences had risen the most of all cat­e­gories of se­ri­ous crime — by 4.6%. There were 52,420 sex­ual as­saults in the year ended March, 2,312 more than the pre­vi­ous year. Of those, 24,387 sex­ual of­fences in­volved chil­dren — an in­crease of 3.8%, or 899 cases.

The po­lice ar­rested the 43-year-old sus­pect on Mon­day, af­ter the lit­tle girl had been raped on Fri­day af­ter­noon. And the mother’s or­deal — which she said had dou­bled her trauma — is now be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the man­age­ment of Harare po­lice sta­tion in Khayelit­sha af­ter an in­quiry by the Sun­day Times.

While the funeral of slain 19-year-old Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town student Uyinene Mr­wetyana was be­ing broad­cast live last Satur­day, the Cape Town mother was battling to re­port what had hap­pened to her daugh­ter. Mr­wetyana was raped and mur­dered in a Cape Town post of­fice.

Soon af­ter her daugh­ter came home from crèche on Fri­day, she went to play with a friend, who lives in the same row of shacks in the Enkanini in­for­mal set­tle­ment. “About 35 min­utes later, I de­cided to go to my aunt. I told [the girl] and she got ex­cited, but she said, ‘I can’t walk mom, my pri­vate part is painful’, and she pointed at her­self.

“She said [her friend’s fa­ther] put her friend on top of him­self, and af­ter that he ‘put me on top of him’. I took her into my house and put her on top of the bed and ex­am­ined her. As soon as I took off her clothes, it was clear that she had been raped.

“I thought I was dream­ing. I took her to the din­ing area and put her on the sofa and ex­am­ined her again and I re­alised that it’s true.”

The woman said she re­turned to the child’s crèche and the teach­ers con­firmed her ob­ser­va­tions. She then took her to the Khayelit­sha Dis­trict Hos­pi­tal, where a doctor tried to call the po­lice, to no avail.

“A so­cial worker ad­vised me not to take the child home be­cause the en­vi­ron­ment might trau­ma­tise her again. She dropped me off at my aunt’s place. I asked the so­cial worker if I should wait for the hos­pi­tal to call the de­tec­tives or must I go and open a case my­self. She said I must go my­self to the po­lice sta­tion be­cause po­lice do not act quickly if you are not in front of them.”

The fol­low­ing morn­ing she took a taxi to Harare po­lice sta­tion. “There was one po­lice officer be­hind the counter,” the mother said. “She said, ‘no, we don’t take such sen­si­tive cases here, go to Khayelit­sha po­lice sta­tion. That is where such cases are opened’.”

The mother then took a taxi to Site B, on the other side of Khayelit­sha, where an officer told her to re­turn to Harare.

“He called a lady called Mrs Roy. She came and asked me to start all over again. She told me to go to Harare, but I in­sisted on be­ing helped there,” she said.

“She went out and when she came back she told me that the de­tec­tive who deals with rape cases was not avail­able. She said they did not know when he would come back.”

Mrs Roy gave the woman her cell­phone num­ber and asked her to SMS her ad­dress, which she would pass on to the de­tec­tive. The mother said she sent the SMS as soon as she ar­rived at her aunt’s home, and re­ceived no re­sponse. But the worst was yet to come.

“On Sun­day I was told that po­lice were look­ing for me and I was re­lieved, think­ing that they want me to show them the sus­pect. But I was sur­prised to find him in­side the van,” the mother told the Sun­day Times.

“He said I was spread­ing ru­mours that he had raped my child. The po­lice asked me what hap­pened. Af­ter lis­ten­ing to me, a fe­male officer told the man that they would not open a case against me and they dropped him and drove off.”

But things be­gan to change af­ter her 21-year-old daugh­ter’s Face­book post.

“A num­ber of peo­ple called us after­wards, in­clud­ing peo­ple who iden­ti­fied them­selves as de­tec­tives in Nyanga, and said they wanted to help.”

The mother re­turned to Khayelit­sha po­lice sta­tion on Mon­day and saw an officer she knew only as Mr Nash. He sent her back home and promised to call her the fol­low­ing day when a de­tec­tive would be avail­able to help her.

Then com­mu­nity activist Naniwe Dan­tjies in­ter­vened. She took the mother back to Harare po­lice sta­tion and con­fronted the officer who had sent the woman away two days ear­lier. Fi­nally, the mother’s state­ment was taken.

The woman’s older daugh­ter, who turned to Face­book for help, said: “I have no hope that rape and the killing of women will ever end in SA. The po­lice’s at­ti­tude to­wards my lit­tle sis­ter’s case is tes­ti­mony to this. One won­ders how many other cases are ig­nored. Our fam­i­lies have to go on so­cial me­dia for po­lice to take our cases se­ri­ously, oth­er­wise they won’t help us. They are only in­ter­ested in protecting their rep­u­ta­tion.”

Dan­tjies said there were many rape vic­tims in Khayelit­sha whose cases were never solved, and all they had were case num­bers.

“That is why peo­ple com­mit suicide. They can’t live with peo­ple who raped them as if noth­ing hap­pened,” she said.

West­ern Cape po­lice spokesper­son Lt Col An­drè Traut said the sus­pect ap­peared in the Khayelit­sha mag­is­trate’s court on Fri­day on a charge of rape. “He was sub­se­quently re­leased un­til our in­ves­ti­ga­tion has reached a more ad­vanced stage,” he said.

“Gen­der-based vi­o­lence and crimes com­mit­ted against chil­dren are top pri­or­ity for the West­ern Cape po­lice and it is against our pol­icy to re­fer a com­plaint or a vic­tim to an­other po­lice sta­tion to re­port an in­ci­dent. The mat­ter de­tailed in your in­quiry is cur­rently un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the man­age­ment of Harare po­lice sta­tion.”

Khayelit­sha po­lice sta­tion com­man­der Brig Mkhuseli Nk­wit­shi said he was not aware of the woman’s or­deal.

“My po­lice sta­tion is just hous­ing the FCS [fam­ily vi­o­lence, child pro­tec­tion and sex­ual of­fences] unit,” he said.

“But this part of [the officer] who did not open the case is some­thing that I will have to in­ves­ti­gate be­cause I was not in­formed of that, I am hear­ing for the first time.”

Ax­o­lile No­ty­wala, sec­re­tary of the So­cial Jus­tice Coali­tion, said many rape vic­tims were turned away at po­lice sta­tions. No­ty­wala said this was be­cause of po­lice leadership’s fail­ure to im­ple­ment the 2014 rec­om­men­da­tions of the com­mis­sion of in­quiry which probed po­lice in­ef­fi­cien­cies in Khayelit­sha.

“Most of the com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions are yet to be im­ple­mented,” said No­ty­wala. “Only Khayelit­sha po­lice sta­tion has an FCS unit, and that is a prob­lem. But all those chal­lenges are ad­dressed by the com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions, in­clud­ing a lack of re­sources.”

Pic­ture: Esa Alexan­der

A mother comforts her three-year-old daugh­ter, who is clutch­ing her teddy bear, af­ter re­peat­edly try­ing to re­port the girl’s rape at po­lice sta­tions in Cape Town last week­end.

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