DNA holds up crèche child rape case: cops

The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Police Commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi said that not having a DNA lab in the province hinders police in fast-tracking rape cases. Photo: Nqobile Mbonambi/ Independent Newspapers

The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Police Commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi said that not having a DNA lab in the province hinders police in fast-tracking rape cases. Photo: Nqobile Mbonambi/ Independent Newspapers

Published May 16, 2024


Durban — A Durban family whose nearly 2-year-old daughter was raped in a crèche last week will have to wait a little longer to see justice.

This emerged on Tuesday night at an eNCA town hall election debate. The debate, which focused on crime in KwaZulu-Natal, had the provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi in the hot seat.

Facing pressure from the family and the Newlands East community, who demanded an immediate arrest, Mkhwanazi said the cause of the delay in effecting an arrest was that the DNA analysis must be done in Pretoria since there was no lab in the province. KZN was thus relying on Pretoria.

Amid mounting pressure from the Durban north community who had stood up shouting, “Arrest now!”, Mkhwanazi brought the KZN head of detectives, Major-General Vukani Mgobhozi, into a fray and asked him to take some of the questions.

Mgobhozi who had been on the phone for most of the show, announced that his detectives were not able to effect an arrest because they were still awaiting the DNA analysis from the Pretoria lab. He promised to call the lab to fast-track the process so police could act.

“We are relying on the DNA analysis … Once we get the report we will act. I will speak to the head of the lab in Pretoria to make it fast,” said Mgobhozi.

The community also demanded the closure of the crèche, but police said they had no right to do so, promising to take the relevant authorities to the crèche to see whether it could be shut down.

Mkhwanazi said police do not have the mandate to shut down a crime scene permanently; they can only cordon off the area when it is still a crime scene. However, once finished combing the area or property for evidence, it can carry on with its business.

Detailing the agony of her grandchild’s ordeal, the grandmother of the victim, who did not want to be named to protect the child’s identity, said that on May 6, her daughter left the baby at the crèche at 8am.

“Upon handing the baby over to the crèche owner, the owner told my daughter there were only two babies – the 1-year-11-month-old baby (ie my grandchild) and another baby – including herself (the owner) and her husband on the premises … ”

The baby was picked up by the grandmother’s partner at around 6pm. The baby was crying and pulling on her nappy, indicating to her mom that her “cookie” (vagina) is sore, she said.

Because the baby was crying for extended hours, they took her to King George Hospital, where a paediatrician said it was just an infection. The family was unhappy with the feedback and went to Newlands East Medical Centre the following day.

“The general practitioner said the baby had been tampered with. She referred us to Addington Hospital.”

Last Wednesday, the family went to Newlands East police station and were contacted by a warrant officer. The officer told her daughter she was about to arrest her due to defamatory messages posted on social media, and that there were complaints from the owner, the grandmother said.

“The officer also mentioned that no case was opened. She even said that she would take the child for social care.

“We explained that we had been sent up and down from the various hospitals, looking for a rape kit. We even showed her the referral letter from the GP.

“I even showed the video and pictures,” the grandmother said.

Upon showing the pictures and videos, the warrant officer could see that something was wrong and directed her to the Thuthuzela Care Centre, she said.

The surgeon confirmed there was indeed penetration and a case was opened at the Newlands East police station, she said.

Rapid Response team leader on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide – Newlands East (ward 11), Dr Nadia Bernon – raised the issue of the crèche only taking in baby girls and that they must be at the age of 5.

“They don’t have boys. As activists, we did not know the husband has a sexual offence and rape cases history. Knowing that her husband has such a history, why did she open a crèche and leave the baby to the husband? At 8pm on Thursday, I was served with harassment papers from the crèche’s owner while I was on the call with the grandmother.”

Bernon asked if the owner and the alleged rapist could be arrested and if the crèche could be shut down.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Colonel Robert Netshiunda said Newlands East police are investigating an alleged rape case.

KwaZulu-Natal Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the department was also investigating; if it finds the crèche owners were in the wrong it will deregister and close the crèche.

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