Pretoria - Members of various South African political parties and civic society groups were at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Tuesday morning ahead of the appearance of a 20-year-old man accused of raping a six-year-old girl in the bathroom of the Dros restaurant in Silverton.
Metro police secured the area around the court, blocking off one road and instructing motorists to use an alternative route.
The caucus spokesperson for the African National Congress (ANC) in the Tshwane metropolitan area Lesego Makhubela said the party was "deeply concerned" about the rise in crime against women and children.
"We have to put an end to this sort of crimes," Makhubela told journalists. "These crimes against women and children in this country are on the rise. Many other crimes of this nature go unreported - the victims are too scared to come out so we need to liberate them."
"We are hoping that the courts and law enforcement agencies will start acting and taking these things seriously."
Makhubela said ANC secretary general Ace Magashule was also expected in court for the hearing, and that the leadership from the party's youth wing and women's league would also attend.
A few metres away, members of the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which runs the municipality in a ruling alliance with other parties, gathered at the court entrance, waving placards. DA mayor for Tshwane Solly Msimanga was also present.
Close by stood a crowd from the militant Black First Land First movement while members of the Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party also milled around outside the court.
Members of the South African Police Service's public order unit were stationed at the court, and a public order vehicle, popularly known as a "nyala", were packed close by.
Officials from the Tshwane Metro Police Department blocked off Francis Baard street adjacent to the court, instructing motorists to use nearby Sophie de Bruyn street as an alternative.
The man accused in the case, who cannot be identified until he pleads, 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.
Political party activists and civil society organisations were expected to protest outside the court on Tuesday over the rape case, which has triggered emotive debate since the news broke and a video showing the aftermath of angry bystanders who assaulted the rape suspect went viral on social media.
* IOL will not name the suspect until he has pleaded to the charges against him.
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