Cape Town -
Women’s rights groups have expressed outrage about the “barbaric” attack on a 23-year-old woman whose eyes were gouged out by three men who robbed her of her cellphone and earrings.
The woman, Thembela Mjuleni, was also choked and left for dead in Mandela Park in Khayelitsha on Saturday night.
She was attacked a few metres from her home as she was returning from visiting a friend.
She sought help at a nearby house, where her family found that she had collapsed and was unconscious, her older brother Thabo Mjuleni said.
Mother to an 8-year-old girl, Mjuleni is unemployed but was to have begun a job next month.
She is in a stable condition in hospital.
One of her alleged assailants, a man of 28, was identified by residents and assaulted the following day, but police intervened.
He was arrested on Tuesday morning and is in hospital under police guard. Details of his injuries could not be established.
An outraged Patrick Godana, manager of the Sonke Gender Justice Network and government and media manager for MenCare, said the attack on Mjuleni was barbaric.
“That men feel entitled to a woman’s body in this day and age is concerning. As Sonke Gender Justice we condemn this barbaric act,” Godana said. “The story is troubling and horrific. Stories of this nature have been reported in Khayelitsha where you would find that women were attacked and had body parts removed.
“We are really worried about these acts. This year we have experienced a lot of attacks against women and children.”
Godana welcomed the arrest of one of the suspects and hoped the police would act swiftly to nab the other two.
The National Prosecuting Authority should work hard to ensure the case was not prolonged, he said.
Kerryn Rehse, operations manager at Mosaic training, Service & Healing Centre for Women, said she was not aware of the attack, but had noted an increase in violent crimes against women.
She is based at the Khayelitsha Hospital’s Thuthuzela Care Centre, works with rape survivors and counsels victims of domestic violence.
“I have never seen anything like that. It is just horrific,” Rehse said.
“The amount of violence behind these crimes is like there is a seething hate behind them.”
Mjuleni’s brother Thabo said she had later named the alleged robbers.
“I think their intention was to kill her because she knew them and would be able to identify them. Two of them took her phone while the other one was strangling her,” Thabo said.
“One of her alleged attackers was at the house where we found her. People said he had a fresh scar under his eye. He denied doing it. My sister confirmed that he was also involved. That is when the community members went to his house and found her belongings.
“We know the people who did this. Two of them have yet to be arrested and people say they deny their involvement.
“There are no words to describe what we are going through. My mother has been at the hospital since she was admitted.
“They removed her eyes because they knew she would be able to describe them.
“Our concern now is to take care of her when she gets back from hospital.”
EMS spokesman Robert Daniels said she was doing “remarkably” well in the circumstances. Police spokesman Andre Traut was unable to give details of the alleged assailant’s injuries.