Johannesburg - The community of Brakpan, on the East Rand, vowed on Monday to attend the case of a man accused of raping and killing his four-year-old niece until it is concluded.
The 23-year-old man appeared in the Brakpan Magistrate's Court on Monday.
Several community members, mostly dressed in pink T-shirts, stood outside the court amid a heavy police presence.
The slain girl was wearing a pink T-shirt the day she was killed.
Cindy Janse van Vuuren said she had attended all the court hearings so far.
“I've got a child myself, so this has hard,” she said, while carrying her two-year-old son.
During his appearance on Monday, the man wore the same black and grey striped shirt he wore last week, and avoided making eye-contact with anyone in the public gallery, fiddling with his hands instead.
The man, who may not be named until he has pleaded, has been provided with a legal aid lawyer Pieter van Niekerk, who indicated that his client had chosen to remain silent and would not apply for bail.
He has yet due to undergo DNA testing.
The case was postponed to March 13 for further investigation.
Outside court, people were unhappy about the postponement.
“According to me, it's bad that it's postponed for so long, but we will make sure that we are here again in March,” said Koos van Vuuren.
Fewer protesters were at court on Monday than at the man's previous appearances, because many had returned to work following the festive period.
Rassie Goosen, 52, said the community was rattled by the crime.
“This is the first time I have ever seen a gruesome murder like this since I've been in Brakpan,” he said.
The girl was reported missing on December 28.
After being questioned by the police, her uncle apparently confessed to the crime and showed them her body underneath a bed in her father's flat.
Her parents are divorced and the father reportedly left her in the man's care while he spent time with his girlfriend.
A mass memorial service was held for the girl last week and she was later cremated. Her mother said she had wanted to scatter her daughter's ashes in the ocean.
“It was a big funeral, but surprisingly the girl's grandfather said we should forgive (his grandchild's killer),” said Di-ann Swanepoel who attended the memorial.
She suggested that the man might feel remorseful and guilty about the crime.
After the hearing on Monday, supporters continued to stand outside the court, waiting for the man to be taken to the police station.
They flocked around a police nyala as it left the court premises, but he was not inside. Disappointed, they moved to another entrance.
“Kudala ahambile lomuntu (he left a long time ago),” said a policeman.
Just then, the nyala crashed into another vehicle outside the court.
The nyala crashed into a car at an intersection. It was thought to have been following the vehicle the man was in.
The car's driver, Solly Mnguni, was not injured. His wife's elbow was slightly hurt.
“We were just passing and it came speeding out of the gate,” said Mnguni's wife.
Protesters rushed to the scene.
“That's what they get for trying to hide this criminal from us,” said one woman.
“Ja, they are just sneaky, now they must pay,” said another.
People in the crowd said they could not understand why the police were protecting the man from them.
Women, Children and People with Disabilities Minister Lulu Xingwana spoke outside the court after the hearing.
“I must commend the police for their speedy arrest of the accused,” she said.
It was a good thing that the accused had not applied for bail and she welcomed the further investigations.
Like most of the supporters, Xingwana was dressed in a pink outfit.
“We are here to say enough is enough,” she said, adding that the government would leave no stone unturned in the investigation.
She said President Jacob Zuma had formed an interministerial team to study why adults were raping children.
“Substance abuse is a factor,” said Xingwana.
Last week, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Mxolisi Nxasana expressed confidence in the case against the man.
“It's a watertight case and we are certain that we will make a conviction,” he said.
On Monday, Karen Tewson, also of the NPA, said counselling and therapy would be provided for relatives of the slain girl who would testify in the case.
“We will empower and help witnesses cope,” she said.