Family of girl who died while trying to report gang rape left with questions about cops on duty that day

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Zenizole Vena was allegedly abducted and gang raped. She died at her local police station.
Zenizole Vena was allegedly abducted and gang raped. She died at her local police station.

She was kidnapped, gang-raped and somehow, she managed to get free. In pain, she made her way to the nearest clinic but she was allegedly turned away.

She made the long walk to the police station, where she was also referred back to the clinic.

But she had no more fight in her. After the pain and suffering she had endured, she she couldn't go any further.

Teenager Zenizole Vena died right there in the police station and South Africans are angry. 

Where was she supposed to go for help if not the clinic and the police? Why are GBV victims re-victimised by the health and police departments?

These are some of the questions they have asked on social media since the story of the Eastern Cape teenagers' tragic death broke. 

These are Zenizole's last moments, filled with pain and suffering. 

It is early in the morning.

Taxis are hooting and people are rushing to get to work and school at the Gqeberha location in Motherwell. At around 6.40am, a 58-year-old spots a teenager in the street looking like she is sick and she is crying.

Little did Sindiswa Ntantiso know that when she got to the girl, it would be someone that she knows.

“I was just trying to help, only to find out it was Zeni.”

On 17 September, 15-year-old Zenizole left her Motherwell home to go to a school event at Malabar but she never returned home and was never reported missing.

It has been about a week since the tragedy but Sindiswa says if it wasn't medication she would not be sleeping.

Read more | Mthatha man sentenced to two life terms for rape - 'Hopefully this will send a strong message to abusers'

“I am an old woman, but I have never seen anything like this,” she tells Drum.

“When Zeni told me that she had been raped, the first place I thought of was the clinic so we went there. I do not have a car and I did not have money, so we walked to the clinic. When we go there, the security said it was closed and so we waited. Then the sister in charge arrived and said we had to wait for their morning prayers before we are attended to.”

Sindiswa spoke to the other residents already in line to explain the urgency of the situation and they allowed her to get ahead of them in the line.

“We waited on the chairs, waiting to open a folder but the sister in charge called us to a room with another nurse and asked Zeni what happened. Zeni told her that she had been raped and the sister asked what time and Zeni said probably around 6am.

“The sister in charge then said she does not deal with rape cases and that we should go to the police station. We then walked out and I thanked the community members who allowed us to jump the queue and told them what the nurses said and we left.”

Together, the elderly woman and injured rape victim walked from clinic to the police station. Dumisani Vena, Zenizole’s uncle says the distance between the clinic and the police station is roughly about 10km.

“As we were walking she just collapsed, vomited and peed herself. From there she was too weak to walk or talk. A local taxi that was passing by gave us a lift for free to the police station. On arrival at the police station Zeni could not talk anymore and I told the police what happened. They said we should go to the clinic and I told them it was the clinic that sent us there.”

She says the police did not help or take any statements, instead, they said they called an ambulance.

“They did not help, there were police officers there and there were police vans there, but they did not help. Zeni died on the benches of the charge office. I called out to the police officers and told them that she had died and they did not do anything.

“I left her there, lying on the floor of the charge office and went to Spar where her uncle worked and I was told that his shift hadn’t started. The manager phone her uncle and told him not to come to work but he should rather go to the police station. While there, police arrived in a van asking me if I know where Zeni lives and I said yes.”

The police took Sindiswa to Zeni’s home, picked up her mother Nomathamsanqa (36) and took her to the police station. At this time, around 9am Sindiswa recalls, Zeni’s body was still lying on the floor covered with a blanket Sindiswa got from a passerby when Zeni collapsed on the walk from the clinic.

“The police took us into a room and they told Zeni’s mother that she had died and only then did they ask for a statement regarding what had happened to Zeni. But she was already dead.”

Unhappy Motherwell residents have shut the clinic down, but Zenizole’s family would like it open again. The angry residents are also calling for the axing of the nurse who refused to help Zenizole.

“People are sick and the family does not want anyone else to suffer because of the closure of the clinic,” Sindiswa says.

Gqeberha police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu says they are still looking for the two suspects who allegedly raped young Zenizole.

“Police are investigating an inquest and a rape case. Postmortem report is awaited. Toxicology specimens were taken and will be sent to the forensic laboratory for analysis. No arrest has been made as yet in relation to the alleged rape and the investigation is continuing.”

The Eastern Cape department of health is denying that Zenizole was denied medical care at the Motherwell Clinic. Instead, they say she was stabilized and then referred to the police.

Read more | 'The creep was waiting for her' - Family in shock after EC teenager raped and left for dead

“The preliminary report indicates that the girl was attended to at the clinic and was found to be clinically stable. The child was referred to SAPS for the incident to be reported and thereafter for related processes to be followed. We do agree that there is room for improvement in the way the patient was referred to SAPS. The department will deal with any shortcomings identified during our investigation and appropriate action will be taken. This includes taking appropriate disciplinary action where recommended,” says Eastern Cape provincial health spokesperson Yonela Dekeda.

She says they are communicating with Zenizole’s family as well as the community at large.

“We want to assure the community that the department takes these allegations seriously as we strive to make our services more person- and community-centred.”

Zenizole was allegedly denied at the clinic and referred to the police station to open a case, but what is the correct procedure to follow when one has been raped?

Yonela says their policy is that a case must be opened with the police and that the case number will be linked or associated with the rape kit that was issued to the victim.

“The patient is then taken to the nearest Thuthuzela Centre with the rape kit. This kit contains the necessary legal paperwork that the medical team needs to complete, the swabs and collection bags for items of clothing and specimens that are collected. 

“There are nine Tuthuzela centres in the Eastern Cape province, located in the major towns. These centres have been set up to support victims of rape and ensure they receive appropriate and immediate medical attention. They arrange counselling and assist with opening a police case (if you want to do so immediately or even at a later stage); they can also arrange for ongoing counselling and court preparation (if the case goes on trial).”

Zenizole’s uncle, Dumisani (42) says they did not even know that she was missing.

“She was with her father’s family also here in Motherwell and we thought she was safe. This is very hard to accept. We are grateful to Mam’uNtantiso who did her best to help but the authorities in power denied her that help.

“Sijonge enkalweni (we have nothing). If it were up to us, we you bury Zeni this coming Saturday but we do not have money. The mortuary keeping her hasn’t been paid either. There have been people coming to the house and they have made promises to help, but nothing has happened yet”

He describes his niece as someone who was very friendly and active.

“She was a child like all children, but she never gave us any trouble. She listened.”

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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