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Cape Town - Sindiswa Sitshikisa is lucky to be alive. The 35-year-old Philippi woman is recovering in Groote Schuur Hospital’s trauma unit, her swollen and bruised head cross-hatched by 42 stitches knitting together eight deep gouges. There are two more lacerations on her battered lower limbs.
Her movements are slow and she has little hearing in her left ear, due to a bruised ear drum.
Sitshikisa has no recollection of the savage axe attack in Philippi on Friday evening at the hands of a man she barely knew.
A neighbour who was first on the scene said she thought Sitshikisa was dead, as the blows from the axe kept raining down on her head.
The neighbour, who did not want to be named, said she heard Sitshikisa desperately screaming for help while she was being attacked at the man’s home.
“It started off as a fight. I then heard the man shout ‘Ponso, Ponso (possibly a nickname), what are you here for?’. She did not reply, but kept crying. I then called out to my eldest son to go and look at what was happening there,” the neighbour said.
The man was still hitting Sitshikisa with the axe, but they could not get into the house because the security gate was locked.
“We screamed for him to stop, but he wouldn’t.”
She said the man only stopped attacking Sitshikisa, whose body lay in a pool of blood, when police arrived.
The neighbour said Sitshikisa and the man were naked. There was an unused condom on the ground.
Speaking to the Cape Argus from her hospital bed on Sunday, Sitshikisa said the man was from her area, but she barely knew him and could not understand why he had attacked her. She could also not recall the circumstances of the evening, how she had ended up at his home or how she had landed up in hospital.
“I am in a great deal of pain and I am still numb. I don’t know why he would hit me like this. He was not my friend – we just spoke briefly,” Sitshikisa said.
Sitshikisa’s cousin, Mphakamisi Mkencele, said they had heard about the incident on Saturday morning and had started a frantic search for her.
Mkencele said his family had been unable to determine which hospital Sitshikisa had been taken to until later in the day.
Lulama Mame, a member of the area’s street committee, said neighbours wanted to burn the man’s house to the ground.
Mame said an “agreement” had been reached between the community, the suspect’s family and the Sitshikisa family.
“If she had died, it would have been the responsibility of the man who attacked her to pay for her funeral costs. But if she remained in a bad condition, the perpetrator’s family would allow Sitshikisa’s family to sell the man’s house to provide for her son,” Mame said.
Mkencele confirmed this agreement on Sunday night.
Lisa Vetten, of the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, said the agreement was not legal.
She added that often in such cases the victim was not consulted.
“It’s not in the community’s powers to do so. This is an ongoing problem in South Africa, where the community is increasingly taking power into their own hands,” Vetten said.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said the suspect had been arrested.