Delft divided over rape suspect
Cape Town - As the plight of the 9-year-old Delft girl raped and set alight remains in the spotlight, the blame game has started in the community.
Delft Suburban, a community neighbourhood watch programme, detained Wanda Oliphant on suspicion he had raped the girl and set her alight.
Oliphant, 27, will reappear in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on charges of rape, sexual assault, abduction and attempted murder.
Priscilla Mcentee, chairwoman of Delft Suburban, apprehended Oliphant after seeing him walking along the R300 in Delft where the child had been left for dead.
Mcentee and neighbourhood watch members kept Oliphant in the garage of a watch member and waited for police while angry community members trying to get to the man nearly broke down the iron structure.
Now, the man whose garage Olpihant was kept in has received harassing messages from some people in the community. He said he did not want to be named and had lodged a complaint at the Delft police station for his own safety.
“Some people do not understand that we cannot take the law into our own hands,” he said.
“I am now being held hostage in my own community because people blame me for keeping him (Oliphant) away from them.”
He said some were rallying support against him. “There are some who are telling people to be against me. It’s not right. I am working with police to clear my name,” he said.
A criminology lecturer at Unisa, Merlyn Barkhuizen, said communities became sensitised when they were exposed to high levels of sexual violence.
“People go into a frenzy when they hear who the perpetrator could be,” she said.
“Acting without evidence, people start to take the law into their own hands and that’s what they wanted to do in this case.”
Barkhuizen said sometimes a lack of trust in police persuaded people to take justice into their own hands.
“Men have wives, daughters, mothers they want to protect. Although it is wrong, they will take the law into their own hands in order to protect their family,” she said.
The alienation of the man from his community was not a direct reflection of hatred towards the man, but hatred of what he had allegedly done.
“Once justice takes its course, the community will understand,” she said.
Crime statistics from the SAPS show that from April 2012 to March last year, 253 cases of sexual assault were reported in Delft.
The communications co-ordinator at Rape Crisis, Sarah Strydon, said for years the greatest number of rape victims at its Thuthuzela rape care centre had come from Delft.
“It’s not new to call it a crisis. Delft experiences some of the highest numbers in woman and child abuse in the province,” said Strydon.
Thuthuzela, at Karl Bremer Hospital, offers counselling, medical treatment, forensic examinations, an interview with the police and follow-up medical care for walk-in rape survivors.
Strydon said the Thuthuzela Centre saw 30 rape survivors from Delft a month.
“The anxiety women and children experience as they come through our doors is unbelievable,” she said
“So often they feel like it is their fault that they’ve been raped. It’s not. We need to educate females about their rights as women.”
* Rape Crisis 24-hour line: 021 447 9763