It took the tragic and brutal rapes of two grandmothers aged 94 and 82 for the government to step in to help the impoverished village of Swayimane near Wartburg. Until the rapes, the village was ignored by all. Now it is a village of shame.
Without even the most basic services, the community is rife with unemployment, drinking and drug taking.
But now there is a glimmer of hope. The departments of Social Development and Community Safety and Liaison have stepped in with promises of programmes to ensure the safety of the elderly.
“We have big plans for Swayimane,” said Weziwe Thusi, the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Social Development. “The community mustn’t lose hope. We will work together to form a better society.”
Thusi promised that social workers would be dispatched to the area tomorrow.
The KZN Department of Community Safety and Liaison is to start programmes to address social issues this week.
Kwanele Ncalane, a spokesman for the department, said: “One of the programmes is called Communities in Dialogue. This promotes social cohesion. We need programmes in place to ensure that the elderly are protected, we need to work together to deal with social ills. Traditional leaders, CPFs, police and NGOs need to come together, and once the community is united, you can root out some of the problems in the area.”
The mayor of Mshwathi Municipality, Mashoba Gwala, said that community policing forums (CPFs) would be strengthened to improve the safety of the community.
“If we don’t correct things and start working together as a community, our current circumstance will never change,” he said.
The 94-year-old grandmother was raped while sleeping next to her two great-grandchildren about two weeks ago. The 82-year-old was raped in her bedroom last Saturday.
The 94-year-old has been moved to a place of safety, reportedly until the Department of Human Settlements has built her a new home. The 82-year-old has been taken away from the village by social workers to receive counselling.
The suspect in the first rape case is a 26-year-old man who was released from jail in one of President Jacob Zuma’s recent special pardons. He appeared in court on Friday and was remanded in custody. His bail application will be held on Tuesday. No arrests have been made in the other case.
But these rapes were not the first horrors in the village. Last year, Dombi Zuma, 16, was raped and beheaded.
“Dogs were fighting over what looked like a human head,” said Aleta Gabela, a neighbour who said that Zuma had been seen in the company of a young man before her murder. “When we looked behind the house we found the rest of the body with her underwear by her knees.”
Outraged community members blame young men for the atrocities. Traditional leader Mzingaye Gcumisa said if justice was not served, youths in the village would keep committing crimes. “The community does not need and want people who have no respect and values,” he said.
Wazini Dladla, 72, said that young people no longer respected their elders. He said he was fearful of being attacked. “I am bitterly afraid of falling asleep at night… I sleep with a knife.”
Ward councillor Mduduzi Goba blamed serious social ills. “The community has a lot of matriculants sitting at home. People have to travel far for water, and sometimes the water tankers don’t come.”