Cape Town -
Julius Hlanjwa sat in his Delft South shack clutching his daughter’s doll and wearing her pink necklace. Hours earlier, he had been told that the girl, who survived being raped and set alight in January, had died.
“It’s just too hard to talk,” he muttered on Tuesday, tears streaming down his cheeks as he stroked 9-year-old Lihle Hlanjwa’s slippers.
Up until last week, he had been hopeful that Lihle, who suffered extensive burns and whom his friends say gave a statement to the police about two weeks ago in hospital, would return home.
Lihle, also known to family and friends as Queenie, died at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital early on Tuesday.
She was raped and set alight on January 18, but, after being found in bush along the R300 the next day, managed to tell residents she recognised the man who had raped her and that he had laughed as he set her alight.
When the Cape Times visited Hlanjwa on Tuesday, he sat in his bedroom surrounded by his daughter’s belongings.
He sat still in the dark room and struggled to speak. “It’s too sore. Eish. Eish.”
His friend and a community representative, Pieter Presence, said Hlanjwa had virtually lived at the hospital since his daughter was admitted there.
Hlanjwa’s shack had even been vandalised and burgled while he was away, Presence added.
On Tuesday, police spokesman Andre Traut said the 27-year-old suspect, arrested the day after Lihle was attacked, now faced a rape and murder charge, instead of an attempted murder charge.
The suspect, Wanda Oliphant, is expected to appear in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court again next week.
Residents on Tuesday said Lihle’s death had come as a shock because her condition had apparently been improving to the point where she could feed and wash herself, until Monday.
Red Cross hospital spokeswoman Angelique Jordaan confirmed Lihle’s death.
“Unfortunately, we cannot provide any other information as we have a responsibility to maintain patient confidentiality,” she said.
Presence said Hlanjwa did not know why his daughter had died.
“He was so happy she was out of ICU and in a ward. She even gave the statement to the police… Now Julius is like this,” Presence said.
At a nearby home, Lihle’s mother, Amanda Hlanjwa, cried hoarsely when told of her daughter’s death, and relatives and friends had to hold her upright as she wept.
She was unable to talk.
Priscilla Mcentee, chairwoman of Delft Suburban, a community neighbourhood programme, said: “I feel like it’s my own daughter that has passed away.”
“I’m feeling very bad. He’s alive. She’s not.”
Mcentee was instrumental in Oliphant’s arrest.
The morning that Lihle was found, she had seen a man, with a burnt T-shirt and blood on his pants, behaving suspiciously.
She called for back-up and together with neighbourhood watch members kept the man in a member’s garage.
The attack on Lihle was one of at least three against children in Delft South in less than a month.
A week before the incident, a 6-year-old girl was raped in a communal toilet in the area.
Three weeks after Lihle was raped and set alight, 11-year-old Siphokuhle Flephu was murdered and allegedly raped.