No justice for KZN family as granny dies of heart attack after three daughters raped in front of her

More than two months since the incident, no arrests have been made

24 June 2020 - 06:00 By Orrin Singh, Zimasa Matiwane and Lwandile Bhengu
A tearful Xoliswa Buthelezi at the #TotalShutdown march in Pietermaritzburg on August 1 2018. A 71-year-old woman died of a heart attack after watching a man rape her granddaughters.
A tearful Xoliswa Buthelezi at the #TotalShutdown march in Pietermaritzburg on August 1 2018. A 71-year-old woman died of a heart attack after watching a man rape her granddaughters.
Image: Jackie Clausen

It’s been 67 days since a double tragedy hit an Impendle family, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, and they are still in a state of grief and despair without justice having been served.

On April 18, a man wearing a balaclava broke into a house and, at gunpoint, raped three sisters — aged 19, 22 and 25 — in front of their grandmother.

The trauma of witnessing the heinous crime proved too much for the 71-year-old, who died of a heart attack.

More than two months later, her 31-year-old son told TimesLIVE  he was broken and haunted by the image of what his mother had to endure.

The man said he was disgusted that someone could commit such “an evil act”.

“I think she died from a heart attack because the girls said the perpetrator did not lay a hand on her. He locked my nieces in the room, then pulled them out one by one and raped them in front of their grandmother.”

He said there was no justice for his nieces, who were devastated. He said they had seen a social worker after the assaults.

“Gender-based violence (GBV) is out of control on this continent. In this case, the rapist saw my mother collapse from the shock and horror but he continued. Where is the humanity?”

Police spokesperson Capt Nqobile Gwala said the rapist was still at large.

According to 2018/2019 crime statistics, the top 10 contributing police stations to crime against women in the province are Umlazi, Inanda, Plessislaer, Ntuzuma, Empangeni, Ladysmith, KwaMashu, KwaDukuza and Chatsworth. KwaZulu-Natal also came second in the list of sexual offences and saw an increase of 3.2% from the previous year.

In March, premier Sihle Zikalala announced a R14m multidisciplinary programme that will include the placement of more than 180 social workers aimed at tackling GBV in the province.

Zikalala said GBV had escalated to “unprecedented levels” in the province, and required the government to strengthen its focus on changing attitudes and promoting positive behavioural change among men.

“Statistics have shown this province tops the list when it comes to violence perpetrated against women and children. This goes against the spirit of ubuntu and points to something that has gone horribly wrong with the moral fibre of our society.

“In the province alone, among 886 people who were killed last year were 665 women, 130 boys and 91 girls,” Zikalala said.

Prof Mosa Moshabela, a primary health-care specialist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who is also part of UKZN's Covid-19 war room, said the war against GBV must be handled with the same approach to fight Covid-19, meaning there needs to be an emphasis on behavioural change.

Moshabela said he was working on a provincewide intervention that would address masculinity and behavioural change, and the initiative involved multiple people from different disciplines.

“In the province we have a challenge whereby we are having to engage men in terms of issues of health and wellbeing. We are finding a lot of the issues involved have a lot to do with behaviour. All of those things are naturally linked to perceptions of masculinity, to the way people see their own identities. They are linked to issues of culture, tradition and cultural identity,” he said.

“We need to start finding solutions. Solutions are hard because it's not like you can give a pill or medication. Behaviour intervention requires you to engage in ways that will help people change their behaviour. We have seen it with Covid-19, where people needed to change their behaviour. It’s not an easy thing to do. GBV is more entrenched and difficult to deal with. Some of the problems are psychological and some are social issues that we are not dealing with,” he said.