‘He doused my poor child in petrol’

By Daneel Knoetze and Murray Williams Time of article published Jan 21, 2014

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Cape Town - “My poor child. He doused her in petrol.”

The father of the Delft girl who was raped and set alight said this as he wept outside the courtroom where his daughter’s attacker was to appear on charges of rape and attempted murder.

The girl’s father, who cannot be named to protect the girl’s identity, and her aunt were among the dozens of Delft community members who lined the benches of Room G at the Bellville Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Prosecutor Sarah Dowries said the case was postponed for “bail information”. The 27-year-old accused would remain in custody until his next appearance on January 28.

Dowries said the man would face charges of rape, sexual assault, abduction and attempted murder.

The National Prosecuting Authority said the man could not be identified as he had not yet pleaded.

Earlier while waiting for the magistrate, the father, overwhelmed by emotion left the courtroom. Outside, in the foyer, he propped his head against the wall and wept.

“It is terrible,” he said, repeating the phrase through his tears.

“I have not eaten since yesterday, I have no appetite. My poor child. He doused her in petrol.”

The girl’s father is originally from Mozambique. He moved to Cape Town in 2003 to look for work. His daughter was born in the city, but apart from her, he has no blood relatives in South Africa, he said.

However, the Delft community have rallied to support the girl’s parents, “as though they are family,” said Gadigha Francis, co-ordinator of Delft’s Child Rapid Response Unit, an organisation that is on 24-hour standby to assist with the search for missing children.

“What happened over the weekend has upset and disturbed the entire community,” Francis said.

“We are here to protest against this terrible act and to ensure that the rapist is not granted bail.”

Asked how he felt about the suspect in the rape and attempted murder of his daughter, her father said: “I do not care about him, my thoughts are only with my daughter.”

On Monday morning he travelled to court from the city hospital where his daughter is still fighting for her life. Asked what doctors had said about his daughter’s condition, the man choked up and started weeping, and was unable to continue speaking.

Police and medical authorities have wrapped the 9-year-old rape and burns victim in a cordon of tight security and care, as she continues to fight for her life.

From as early as Monday, media were requested to keep secret the name of the hospital, in order to protect the child.

A spokesperson for the hospital, who could not be named either, told the Cape Argus: “Police have made an arrest, but until they have finished their investigation, he’s innocent until proven guilty – the real culprit could still be out there.

“So police have instructed us not to say a word, for now, in order to keep her safe.

“Due to the sensitivity around this case, and to protect her identity, we have increased security at the hospital and are allowing no media on to the premises.

“The family that are here do not want to speak out – they are here only to support her in her fight for her life,” the spokesperson explained.

Outside the hospital’s gates on Monday morning, there was no presence of wellwishers or community members as the hospital's identity remained protected.

A delegation from the ANC Women’s League, led by regional secretary Connie Croats, filed into court to show their support for the girl’s family.

“We are touched as women, many of us with children of our own, by this horrific crime,” said Croats. “It appears that we have lost a sense of ubuntu, and a mutual responsibility for the well-being of our women and children in this country.

“We cannot afford to look away when these things happen. The responsibility lies as much with us as with the police and the justice system to ensure that these perpetrators are brought to book.

“For today, we are simply here to support the girl’s family.”

Cape Argus and Sapa

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