PRETORIA - Young people from different political formations and civic society group formed the majority of people who picketed outside the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Wednesday as a 20-year-old man appeared for allegedly molesting a seven-year-old girl at a Dros restaurant.
In their EFF red t-shirts, Asemahle Zilindile and Thobeka Jele had come from Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, to join hundreds of activists picketing outside the court - calling for a harsher sentence on the suspect.
"As a young person, I am here to represent other young people who are not here. I stand against rape and all things related to that. From the beginning, this case has made me very angry," said Zilindile.
"I have a younger sister who is of the same age. To think that our younger sisters, and women in general are not safe in places where we expect them to be safe ... we are not safe in our own country. We are not safe anywhere. This really touched my heart because of what the family was going through."
Zilindile said the scourge of rape and the molestation of women and children reported across the country has left her "gatvol".
Pretoria central resident Amos Ndlovu, 18, said he had taken a day off to be at court with other protesters.
"If we don't come here and make a stand, who will stand up for the little girl? I am from Bulawayo [in Zimbabwe] but this scourge knows no nationality, ethnicity or or race. We are one people. I am adding my voice to those calling for the suspect to be given a life sentence," said Ndlovu, who works as a waiter.
The DA's Gauteng shadow MEC for social development Refiloe Nt'sekhe said the Dros rape case has relegated political ideology differences and brought people together.
"This is one of those instances where you find that it's not about political parties. When a child has been raped, mothers come together because a child is a child for the whole country, not for one political party. That is the message that the DA wants to send out," said Nt'sekhe.
"This has nothing to do with political parties. Here we unite as mothers. One of our children has been victimised."
On Wednesday, presiding magistrate Ignatius du Preez postponed the case to January 15, but with a recorded provision that the matter return to court sooner - if a bed becomes available at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria West.
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 Dros restaurant's play area to the toilets where he allegedly raped her. The girl's mother allegedly caught him in the act after she went looking for her child.
The court has heard that the suspect has mental issues, and has previously attempted suicide several times due to depression caused by bipolar disorder.
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