Rape Nation: Behind the headlines

2013-08-11 14:01

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For the past three months, a small map of SA has occupied a corner of City Press’ page 2 each Sunday. There, we have recorded – in single, stark lines – the rapes that have made headlines in all nine provinces during the previous week. Today, we go behind the headlines.

»?July 27:

Philisiwe Hlatshwayo never took a day off work – not even when her daughter was sick.

So when the primary school teacher from Nongoma in KwaZulu-Natal didn’t report for duty two months ago, her family knew something was wrong.

Their worst fears were confirmed when they discovered that the 40-year-old’s partially burnt body was lying in a mortuary in Durban.

She is believed to be a victim of Sphiwe Khoza (36), a man who now stands accused of being a serial killer.

Khoza, who is currently in Durban’s Westville Prison, allegedly befriended Hlatshwayo on Mxit and the pair started a romantic relationship.

Hlatshwayo’s daughter, Ntando (26), told City Press that the couple would speak about 10 times a day.

So when her mother decided to meet Khoza face to face in Tongaat, north of Durban, two months ago, nobody worried.

It is not clear what happened when the two met, but Hlatshwayo’s partially burnt, half-naked body was found on June?8, dumped in a sugar cane field near Amanzimnyama in Tongaat.

The mother of two had been bound and gagged.

Ntando told City Press that one of her mother’s friends, a teacher with whom she worked, was aware she was going to meet the man in Tongaat.

She kept her friend up to date on WhatsApp after she boarded a taxi that Friday.

“She told her friend when she arrived in Tongaat and when the man came for her. She even messaged her when they were walking through the sugar cane field and then her phone went dead,” Ntando said.

Hlatshwayo may not be the only woman who fell prey to Khoza.

Phindile Ndlovu’s (35) half-naked body was found on June 2 near KwaTiba in Tongaat, and it was bound and gagged in a similar fashion.

Another woman’s body was found near Emona in Tongaat on June 23.

Her body was burned beyond recognition and still hasn’t been identified.

Police are conducting DNA tests, but early indications show that all the victims were raped.

It was Hlatshwayo’s death that led the police to Khoza.

He was caught on CCTV footage after allegedly cleaning out her bank account and then nabbed in Port Elizabeth two weeks ago.

Police traced him using Hlatshwayo’s cell phone.

Ntando believes the events that led to Khoza’s arrest are testimony to her mother’s fighting spirit.

“We will never be normal again. The way I see it, he has killed before. But he was caught as a result of killing my mother.” – Sphumelele Mngoma

»?August 11:

Revenge. That’s the motive residents on a farm near Ceres are giving for the kidnapping and rape of a four-month-old baby girl and a seven-year-old boy last weekend.

The baby was sleeping between her parents and the boy was next to his mother.

It appears that a man entered through a window and opened the front door from the inside.

He took the children outside, raped them and fled.

The badly injured little boy picked up the almost naked baby and carried her home.

With the bleeding baby in his arms, he woke his mother and the baby’s parents.

A man was arrested the next day, but was released on Tuesday because he could not be linked to the incident.

The boy has now been attending identity parades in Ceres to identify the attacker.

He is being helped by his grandmother and a social worker – and has insisted that he will recognise the man.

The baby has undergone three reconstructive operations in the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.

Neighbours and a close relative of one of the families insist this was a twisted revenge attack.

“It was revenge. The father of one of the children owed the man money. We hear it’s R800.”

Police would say only that the investigation was ongoing.

City Press’ sister publication, Rapport, found the boy and his shocked mother on a neighbouring farm where they are now living while police investigations continue at their home.

The boy’s grandmother said he has nightmares and refuses to sleep alone. “He sleeps behind his grandfather’s back. It breaks my heart that something like that could happen to this child.

“He’s smart, he’s bright, he doesn’t deserve this.

“The worst for me is that the two little ones were left in the dark. Look at the snow on the mountains.

They could have died if my grandchild had not been able to get home.

That hurts me more than anything.

“But I know one thing – my little grandson is a hero. After this terrible thing happened to him, he didn’t think about himself. Instead, he picked up the baby, and, as he told us, walked home slipping and sliding in the mud.”

The shy Grade 1 boy, who sat sucking his thumb while his grandmother spoke, said quietly: “One day I am going to be a policeman. Then I can catch these people.”

He likes maths and stories, he says. “The Flea’s Party is my best story.” – Marlene Malan

»?May 26:

The 15-year-old weeps when you ask about the two men who hurt her.

Her epileptic fits have become more frequent in the past few months and she struggles to sleep.

She has terrible nightmares.

The teenager has always struggled to communicate because she is severely mentally disabled.

Now she’s even more withdrawn.

Instead of playing with children on the street outside her family’s Khayelitsha home, she stays inside.

She is hiding from the back yard shebeen where her parents make a living selling alcohol and meat.

Theirs is one of the brick houses in the township’s Harare Section 35, where it stands alongside shacks and back yard structures.

This house, and the special school she attends, are the teenager’s world: three bedrooms, a lounge and a kitchen.

She shares the home with her parents and elder sister.

But her world is not safe any more.

Everything changed on May 16, and the day is forever etched in her mother’s mind.

“It was on Thursday when the incident happened. I knew the suspects – they were my customers.

They used to buy meat here.

My daughter knew them and she trusted them as her elder brothers.

That’s why she accompanied the two men into a shack in Section 35 on May 16.

Somebody saw the teenager emerging from the shack with the two men, who are both in their late 20s.

The witness told the girl’s family and she was taken to a doctor, who examined her and confirmed she’d been raped.

But what made that witness realise something was amiss?

Two weeks earlier, one of the men had been acquitted of raping a 12-year-old girl. She, too, was disabled.

As news of the 15-year-old’s rape spread, the women of Section 35 set out to find the suspects. When they did, they brought the two men out into the streets of Harare and beat them. The pair was saved only when the police arrived.

“It was us women who did the beating and I wish the police would have arrived late. Their death was going to solve the problem and it was going to send a big message to other rapists,” said a neighbour.

It is the women, too, who are closely following the suspects’ trial.

“Each and every time when they appear in court, we send someone to go and listen for us. Killing them would have been the best solution, because they killed that child’s future.” – Nombulelo Damba / West Cape News

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