Gogos set up safehouse as rape case stokes fears
Grandmothers in KwaSwayimane in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands have moved into a single house to thwart potential rapists.
The women, aged between 67 and 90, made the decision after a 28-year-old habitual criminal appeared in court yesterday for allegedly raping a 94-year-old woman in front of her great-grandchildren.
The crime occurred less than a month after the man was released from prison under President Jacob Zuma's special Freedom Day remission programme.
Leaning on her walking stick, Thokozile Gcumisa, 68, called for the suspect to "rot in jail".
"I stay alone with my two grandchildren, aged nine and 12, and I am scared that he might do it to me as well. Maybe he got an appetite for grannies like myself and it means I am no longer safe. I am even afraid of going to the outside toilet alone," she said.
Julia Hadebe, 67, said: "We are now so afraid that we have to stay in groups because if you are alone, you might be attacked and raped.
"We fear our own children and grandchildren in our community more than we fear animals."
When the suspect entered the dock at the New Hanover Magistrate's Court, some of the women gasped, saying they could scarcely believe someone so young could have committed a crime so cruel.
The man, who cannot be named because he did not plead, was charged with housebreaking and rape.
In 2006, he was found guilty of housebreaking and sentenced to three years' imprisonment, two of which were suspended for five years.
Then, in January this year, he was again arrested for housebreaking and sentenced to six months in jail.
Upon his release, after serving five months of his sentence, the man is alleged to have robbed a woman of her cellphone at knife-point on July 10.
He allegedly raped the 94-year-old woman in her rondavel on Saturday.
At the court, police covered his face and chased away photographers and TV cameramen.
"This is my case and I don't want it to be jeopardised by having the suspect's pictures all over the newspapers and television. Please leave this court," a policeman shouted.
Shackled and wearing a blue tracksuit and torn takkies, the accused entered the dock under heavy police guard.
Prosecutor Jabulani Maphumulo read out the charges and the man then whispered that he would conduct his own defence.
"Let me warn you, you are charged with serious crimes and I won't lie to you, your case will go to high court and it is advisable that you get the services of a legal expert," Magistrate Virushka Jamuna said.
The suspect indicated he would apply for a legal aid lawyer.
The matter was adjourned to August 3 for a bail application.