Protesters outside the Pretoria court. File picture: Jacques Naude/ African News Agency (ANA)

PRETORIA - Different civil society groups, religious formations and political parties on Tuesday said it was calling for a harsher sentence to be imposed on 20-year-old man accused of raping a seven-year-old girl at a Dros restaurant -- when he goes on trial.

#NotInMyNameSA secretary general Themba Masango told African News Agency (ANA) that his organisation plans to picket at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.

"We plan to come in our numbers at court on Wednesday. We are engaging the prosecutor as we speak. We are saying the suspect is not mad. He must be subjected to a blood test to prove our accusations," said Masango.

"We want answers to the questions we are posing. We do know that he is not mad. Why is he getting preferential treatment? Is it because he is white?" 

Incredible Happenings Ministries leader, Prophet Paseka "Mboro" Motsoeneng, who has partnered with #NotInMyNameSA, said it was critical for the South African community, particularly church organisations to stand with victims of crime.

"I have taken a decision to play an active role in the fight against all forms of women abuse happening in South Africa. From time immemorial, the church has been the refuge for victims, so myself, as a leader of a church I am continuing on that path. I will dedicate time on Wednesday to join different political parties and activists who will be denouncing the accused in this case," said Motsoeneng.

"We cannot fold our hands when a seven year old innocent girl is molested. This is why I have partnered with #NotInMyName so that we join our forces to fight this scourge. This fight needs everyone to join in -- despite our differences."

Earlier this month, the Pretoria Magistrate's Court sent the 20-year-old suspect for mental evaluation at the Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria.

He faces charges of rape, possession of drugs, assault with intent to do bodily harm and intimidation.

He allegedly followed the little girl from the restaurant's play area to the toilets where he raped her. The girl's mother caught him in the act after she went looking for her child.

The court has heard that the susepect has mental issues, and has previously attempted suicide several times due to depression caused by bipolar disorder. 

The defence, led by Legal Aid attorney Riaan du Plessis, requested that three clinical psychologists be appointed to assess the accused, instead of the usual two.

On Tuesday, the ANC in Tshwane said it will also be mobilising members to protest at the court - as it had done in previous appearances. 

"We are very firm that the accused should remain behind bars for the crimes he committed against the victim, the victims family and the people of this country, we are convinced that the courts should not allow him to hide his satanic behavior behind the veil of insanity," said Tshwane Caucus spokesperson Lesego Makhubela.

"The accused was perfectly aware of what he was doing and was responding to his wicked inclinations. In observing the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence and Abuse of Women and Children,  the court should never allow him to be set free."

Meanwhile, Tshwane Metro police advised motorists to avoid streets adjacent to the court as they will be congested by the picketers.

"Streets in the [Pretoria] CBD will be congested, so motorists are advised to avoid the affected streets and use alternative roads. TMPD and SAPS officers will be deployed to monitor the picket and all affected streets," said senior superintendent Isaac Mahamba.

Francis Baard Street will be closed for traffic between Sophie de Bruyn and Bosman Street from 8am until 3pm.

* IOL will not name the suspect until he has pleaded to the charges against him.

African News Agency (ANA)