Johannesburg - The African National Congress said it was shocked and numbed by the rape of a Tzaneen toddler, the party said on Friday.
The two-year-old was allegedly raped last Saturday by a 29-year-old man who was a friend of the father.
Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the man took her to the bushes, raped and left her there, and fled.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu called for action from men around the country.
"We call on men in our communities to take a stand against rape and violence. Let us hold hands with women in society towards this end," he said.
"As the ANC we reiterate the call made by President Jacob Zuma that harsh sentences be imposed against this beastly behaviour."
Warrant officer Masenyani Makhubele of the Tzaneen police station confirmed that the alleged rapist was arrested on Wednesday.
"He will appear in the Tzaneen Magistrate's Court on Monday," said Makhubele.
The ANC Women's League said the suspected rapist should not be granted bail.
"As the ANCWL we call for harsher punishments for rapists; and a convicted child rapist should never be allowed to re-enter society," said league spokesperson Troy Martens.
"This type of creature should be denied the right to freedom for the rest of their days on this earth."
On Tuesday, Mulaudzi said the child was in a critical condition in hospital.