It is believed the man kidnapped the toddler and placed his hands over her mouth to muffle her screams while beating her on her legs in an alleged attempt to rape her.
The drama unfolded on Sunday in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, just after 7pm.
Little Ithandile Kondile had been playing outside her home when she was allegedly lured away by the 27-year-old man.
Police say the man was arrested on the same night and is expected to appear in the Stellenbosch Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday on a charge of kidnapping.
Police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk confirms the arrest: “We can confirm a kidnapping docket was registered for an incident which occurred on Sunday at Vineyard Street, Kayamandi.
“Circumstances surrounding this incident are under investigation.”
Doctors have since ruled out that the child had been raped.
Her father Mfundo Kondile, 40, had just arrived home from work when he realised his daughter was missing.
“My wife said the last time the child was seen was at 7pm,” he said.
The family then began a door-to-door search, asking residents if they had seen Ithandile.
But it was when Mfundo stopped at a neighbour’s home, that he grew suspicious.
Mfundo heard muffled screams and forced the door open.
Inside he found his frightened daughter crying on a bed.
“When I knocked the first time, I heard he was home and I heard someone screaming but it was muffled,” he says.
“I forced the door open and then I saw my child lying on the bed crying and she came running to me.”
Mfundo immediately took his child to the police station.
By this time the whole community had been alerted and the suspect was arrested.
The child’s mother, Wendy Kondile, 29, says the child explained how the man allegedly beat her on her legs and arms.
She explains: “She said he hit her on the legs and arms.
“I think he was preparing to rape her.
“The doctors said no rape was committed but police said a kidnapping had taken place.
“I am just glad he didn’t rape or harm my child because she is so young.”
Community leader Kwanele Gugushe says they are calling on the community to be more cautious.
“We need to go back to the basics, we need to know who our neighbours are,” he says.
“We have lost our morals.”