Johannesburg - Brakpan residents expressed outrage over the rape and murder of a four-year-old girl during the court appearance of the alleged perpetrator on Tuesday.
The girl's 23-year-old uncle was arrested in connection with the crime last month, shortly after she was reported missing on Saturday, December 28.
On Tuesday, scores of people, among them children, were at the Brakpan Magistrate's Court on the East Rand at the man's court appearance.
Most of them were dressed in pink T-shirts. The slain girl had been wearing a pink shirt on the day she was killed.
The supporters gathered at a corner outside the court before proceedings began.
“It could have been my child,” said Tim Williams, who came to the court with his daughter. A woman, also dressed in a pink T-shirt, said people were looking for answers.
“We want to know why he did it,” she said.
An emotional Tazz-Lynn Ramsay, 16, said: “She was just a child. She did not even know what rape was.”
A young girl at the court with her parents wore a pink T-shirt bearing the letters “RIP” (rest in peace).
CALLS FOR DEATH PENALTY
Wynard Kruger, 11, carried a board reading, in Afrikaans: “Bring back the death penalty. We seek justice for the kids, bring him out.”
Two women dressed in ANC Women's League uniform were outside the court after the proceedings. The girl's parents, however, were not in court.
Scores of police officers lined the street leading to the court gates, while others were on horseback. No phones, cameras or tablet computers were allowed inside the court.
Before proceedings began, court orderlies evicted from the room several men dressed in shorts.
“No shorts allowed in court,” said the court orderlies.
The courtroom was packed to capacity. Wearing a striped black and grey T-shirt and grey tracksuit pants, the accused walked into court with his head bowed. He looked at his hands throughout the proceedings. He may not be identified until he has pleaded.
The blond-haired accused mumbled to magistrate Khatija Abba that he wanted to apply for a State lawyer. His case was postponed to January 13 to give him time to do so.
Abba reprimanded the court gallery when there was muttering after she said he had the right to apply for bail once he had secured a lawyer. He said he understood.
He walked out of the courtroom with his head down, avoiding eye contact with anyone in the gallery.
Outside court, the National Prosecuting Authority said it believed it had a strong case.
“It's a watertight case and we are certain that we will make a conviction,” said spokesman Mxolisi Nxasana.
MAXIMUM SENTENCE SOUGHT
Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, called for the maximum sentence for the accused if he was found guilty.
Speaking on Xingwana's behalf, spokesman Motalatale Modiba said the perpetrator should get life imprisonment.
His comments were met with cheers from members of the public, and several bikers who were at the court revved their motorbikes.
Modiba said Xingwana was concerned that several acts of violence against women and children had been reported just days into the new year.
“There is something fundamentally wrong with our foundation as a society when women and children are made to live in terror even in their own homes,” Xingwana said.
“Domestic violence is a social evil that must be uprooted from our communities.”
The Brakpan girl would be buried on Wednesday. Residents and bikers were organising a march to be held in her memory.
The man was arrested shortly after she was reported missing.
“A missing person's report was issued on Saturday morning and the police and the community started looking (for the girl). We had to do our own investigation,” police spokesman Captain Tsekiso Mofokeng said at the time.
Police then interviewed the family.
“We identified that one of the family members did not give a confident story... he gave many versions.”
Mofokeng said the man was charged with kidnapping. Later “he gave in and confessed” and helped police find the girl's body underneath a bed in her father's flat, on Voortrekker Street. -Sapa