How the City of Cape Town handed rapists a victim

2012-06-19 14:50

There have been quite a lot of rape cases reported in the media lately, and this seems to be all over the country. I have read the statistics and the many rape stories, from a group of children raping school girls to teachers raping school girls, or young men raping the elderly and the mentally or physically disabled; from parents raping their own children to corrective rape for the lesbians. Many different cases of rape but the victims almost always have one thing in common, they belong the most vulnerable group in our society.

Many stories behind the statistics remain untold and I do not usually read the entire story when the word rape is mentioned so I never really got to even come close to understanding how the victim felt. It’s also easy for some to simply ignore the story not thinking that tomorrow it could happen to them or their loved ones.

One story that I came across and couldn’t ignore was that of Nomzi *not her real name*, a married woman with two children, one is 6 years old and the other is 8 months old.

Nomzi lives in a shack in Site B, Khayelitsha and works for the City of Cape Town’s water and sanitation department, she looks after the communal toilets in the informal settlement she lives in. Her husband is unemployed and she has very little formal education so the job is their most treasured source of income.

Nomzi leaves her shack at 04h30 every morning, walks from Site B to the Lansdowne fire station in Site C. This is quite far from where she lives and she must walk past the Mew Way road bridge. She works in Site B but must walk on her own to site C, an area where even grown men do not walk alone at that time, just to sign in and go back to Site B where she will start working only when the sun comes up as there is no power in the toilets.

One morning while she was walking to clock in at the Fire station she came across two boys, they searched her to see if she had any valuables and she did not carry any as the area is known for its tsotsis; so because she did not have anything that could get them drugs, they asked her if she knows doggy style, she told them she had no idea what they were talking about, one boy asked: don’t you watch blue movies? Nomzi replied no and asked them to let her proceed with her journey as they did not get what they were looking for and that was the beginning of the story she will most probably never want her young daughter to experience.

To cut the story short, the boys dragged her into a nearby canal where they would not be seen by anyone and took turns raping her. Nomzi cannot get the smell of those boys out of her head and the words of one of the boys, who said to the other boy “Yidu’chame nawe maan”, telling his friend to ‘cum quickly’; couldn’t wait for his turn. When they were done raping her, one of the boys continued to sodomise Nomzi.

Nomzi told her friend that she thought of committing suicide after the incident and how scared she is as she must walk on that road every morning on her own. The husband cannot walk with her because he has to stay behind and look after the kids.

The reason for the title of this story is because Nomzi works for the City of Cape Town, then she is required to sign in at 05h00 at the Fire station when she does not even work at the Fire station. The City of Cape Town knows too well how dangerous Site C is; in fact VPUU one of the crime prevention projects supported by the City of Cape Town had identified the area as their starting point because of its crime rate. And yet they continue to expose her to such conditions when she could sign in at Andile Msizi hall right next to where she lives.

The City of Cape Town appointed waste removal contractor lets their staff clock in on one of the containers they use to store domestic waste, so why does the municipality require Nomzi to walk from Site B to Site C in the dark knowing that she was raped there and many people have actually been killed on such incidents? Even I, a grown man would never walk there on my own or with a friend in the dark.

If Nomzi had not walked to the Fire station, she would not have been raped but then again she could quit and let the municipality hire someone else but where will she get a job with little work experience and no formal education? So she, based on her circumstances has to keep the job even if it means she could die before getting to the job.

The City of Cape Town should surely take responsibility here for having exposed Nomzi like that, maybe provide counselling and improve her working conditions. One of the lessons this story has taught me is that we ought to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our society are protected not exposed to such incidents. Yes the council cannot have a bodyguard for each council employee but can certainly make sure that reasonable measures are taken to protect its vulnerable employees. And the constitution of the republic tells us that local government should promote a safe environment and yet the City of Cape Town promotes crime by exposing a poor defenceless woman to Khayelitsha’s most feared hooligans. So committed to serving everyone even rapists can proudly say 'this City works for you'. What a shame!

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