Kimberley - The greatest fears of a mother of a 15-year-old disabled teenager, who has been constantly moved around by the Sol Plaatje Municipality from shack to shack, have been realised after she was raped in front of her child in her shanty in Porpoise Street.
The single mother and her two children, one of whom is disabled, were initially moved to an open piece of ground at the back of Lerato Park in Bobo se Plaas. Here the disabled son essentially became a prisoner in the cramped, three-by-three metre shack provided by the municipality, due to the inaccessibility of the area. The teenager was also forced to stop school as the location of the shack was too inaccessible for pupil transport.
Following media reports, showing the disabled boy lying on a mattress on the floor, a damp facecloth on his forehead, in an attempt to provide some relief from the oppressive heat inside the zinc structure, the municipality identified another piece of ground in Haddock Street, where their shack was again erected.
Here, however, they were met with hostility from surrounding community members, who questioned why the municipality had agreed to erect their shanty on this open piece of ground while other residents were prevented from doing the same.
As a result, the family were again moved at the end of November, this time to another piece of open ground in Porpoise Street. After less than two weeks however, the mother was raped in the early hours of the morning.
“I was sleeping and my disabled son was sleeping on the bed next to me. Fortunately my younger son, who is eight years old, was sleeping at my father’s house because he is afraid of the dark.”
The woman said that at around 4am they heard someone trying to force the door of their zinc shanty open. “I tried to stop them from coming inside by pushing all my weight against the door, but there were five of them and they were much stronger than me.”
She said two men came inside the shanty. “One of them started smoking dagga and drugs in the shanty. He was sitting on my son’s wheelchair and I think he wanted to try get us high on the smoke fumes so that we didn’t remember anything. He then went outside, and the other man, who seemed to be the gang leader, raped me.”
She added that the incident happened in front of her disabled son, who saw everything. “He is extremely traumatised and doesn’t want to sit in the wheelchair any more. He can’t sleep at night and says every time he closes his eyes, he sees the attackers.”
According to the mother, both her and the boy were admitted to hospital and treated for stress and anxiety. “He has gone back to school but I had to tell the teacher what had happened because he is still traumatised.”
The woman added that she has been unable to go back to the shack, and is currently living with her father. “I am too afraid to even collect our clothes from that place.
“If I was alone, it would have been one thing, but this has happened in front of my son. What is going to happen next? I cannot take this any more.”
She stated that despite promises of assistance from the Department of Social Services, nothing has been forthcoming.
“It doesn’t help that the municipality keeps moving our shack from one place to another. A disabled child needs to have a proper brick house in order that his needs are catered for. A shack also doesn’t provide any protection for a single mother on her own.”
She added that she had been promised that she would be provided with water and electricity but that had not materialised. “The Sol Plaatje Municipality and Coghsta need to do the right thing and assist us with a proper house where we will be safe and one that meets the needs of my disabled son.”
Municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie said yesterday that the local authority was very saddened by the ordeal that the family have gone through. “We hope the perpetrators are arrested and rot in jail,” Matsie said.
“Crimes against women and children are abhorrent and can be described as a national crisis which takes place even in well-established settlements.
“According to our records, the family abandoned the last place that was allocated to them by the municipality and relocated to Porpoise Street with the help of the ward councillor without our consent,” Matsie added.
“It is also our wish that people with special needs should be prioritised but there are several processes that should be followed which also include consultation and approval by other stakeholders. Housing provision falls within such a process and the municipality is cognisant of the fact that one of the children is disabled. The whole matter is regrettable and we will attempt once more to assist within our legal limitations.”
Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Dimakatso Mooi confirmed that a case of rape was opened on December 9.
“No one has been arrested as the suspect is unknown. It is requested that anyone who may have information about this case must please contact the investigating officer, Sergeant De Jong, on 082 495 4605 or the Crime Stop line on 08600 10111. All information received will be treated as confidential.”
The Department of Social Services failed to respond to requests for comment.