It has become common for elderly women who stay by themselves in rural villages to leave for the cities for fear of being raped.
A 74-year-old woman from Centane in the Eastern Cape has abandoned her home and fled to Cape Town after police allegedly let her rapist walk free.
Mazulu (not her real name) who now lives in Monwabisi Park, Khayelitsha, said the rapist told residents that he raped her after he robbed her of her money, cellphone and alcohol. “This happened in May 15,” she said.
Mazulu from Mambalwini village, where she was living alone, said the incident happened at night. “I did not hear him opening the doors, I was sleeping. I only woke up when he was already standing next to my head. He said he was sent to rob me,” said the old woman.
“He asked if I had alcohol in the house because I recently had a traditional ceremony. I told him to look in the cupboard. He asked for another brandy and my social grant or he will rape me. There was a half-bottle I told him to take it. This time I was trying to find my phone; I normally put it under my pillow but it was not there,” she said.
“When he noticed that I was looking for something, he asked me if I was looking for my phone. I noticed it in his hand, including my wallet,” said the grandmother crying. “After he took the half-brandy he raped me while holding a knife threatening to kill me if I cry.”
The old woman said the suspect was caught by residents who asked him where he got the alcohol. “They beat him and he told residents that he robbed and raped me,” she said.
Mazulu said that when police came she was sent to Butterworth Hospital. She said the suspect was also taken to hospital by the police but they let him go instead of arresting him.
“I was shocked when I saw him in the area the next day not arrested. That young man told the whole community that he raped me but police let him walk free,” said the sad woman.
Mazulu said she decided to leave the area because she realised she was no longer safe. “I don’t like city life but I have no choice, I can’t stay home when that young man is still roaming on our street,” she said.
The Centane Community Policing Forum chairperson, Siyasanga Nikani, said rape is the highest crime in the town which only has two police vans to serve 361 villages. Women who live alone are the most common targets, he said, adding that there are many unsolved rape cases at Centane police station and that he was not aware of Mazulu’s case. Nikani said their cry to have more police vans fell on the deaf ears of the Eastern Cape government.
He said that the police station lacks resources, a fault of the provincial government and not the police themselves. “If I can make you an example, this police station has only two police vans that are working in these villages with gravel roads. Sometimes police will be called in a village like Debeshe 30km away from town. While that van is still on the way, there’s another call asking them to attend another crime scene in Gcina village which is 47km in the opposite direction. That means the van will only attend two cases on that day. Sometimes the van will break down on the way to the crime scene because of bad roads,” he said.
“We have been asking government to add more vans, we’ve written a number of letters to government with no luck. What we want is for investigative officers who are dealing with domestic violence cases to have their own police vans when attending a case. Now they are forced to wait for the same two vans which are used for every crime in the area,” he said.
Resident Luvuyo Toti said that people live far from town and when they call cops they are told to go to the police station in town. “At that time you don’t even have money to go to town. That is why some domestic violence cases are not reported,” he said. Women, specially the elderly, he observed, are leaving the area for cities because rape is escalating in Centane
Police spokesperson, Siphokazi Mawisa, confirmed that a rape case was opened for investigation at Centane SAPS. She said the suspect is unknown and no arrest has been made yet but that the investigation is continuing.