The rural community of Elliot in the Eastern Cape is organising what they envisage to be a massive protest outside the local magistrate’s court in support of a 17-year-old schoolgirl and gang-rape victim when one of her alleged attackers will appear in court on Monday.
The brave girl, who despite having been gang-raped by five men and had to feign death in order to escape being murdered, was apparently saved by her amazing swimming skills.
According to George Nqoko, of the Elliot para-legal office, on her way home from a night party at about 1am held at the nearby old location, the unnamed girl asked for a lift from her cousin who was with four other occupants in a bakkie as she was on her way home.
Along the way one of the attackers began to throttle her and stuffed cotton wool into her nose and mouth while the vehicle was moving. They stopped in a deserted area near Thompson Dam where all five, including the cousin, allegedly gang raped her.
The cousin, who is expected to face charges of rape and attempted murder, allegedly told the victim that he had always wanted to have sex with her.
Nqoko said when they finished, the girl played dead before the attackers threw her in the river adjacent to the dam saying, “the bitch is dead”.
The girl was able to remain under the water until the attackers left before she swam to the other side of the river.
She walked in the dark and was attracted by a light from an initiation school where she got help and the matter was reported to the police.
The woman suffered bruises on her face and neck and around her eye after allegedly being throttled and beaten by her attackers.
Later the cousin was arrested while his friends were still at large.
Nqoko said the girl had now been taken to a place of safety as only one suspect has been arrested and it is not safe for her to be home.
“She cannot stay at home because the families of the suspects continually come to her mother’s house offering money for her to withdraw charges,” Nqoko said.
The girl’s mother, who could not be named as her child is a rape victim, was adamant that she wouldn’t bow to the intimidation to withdraw the charges.
“I cannot be paid for the victimisation of my child,” said the mother.
Nqoko said gender-based violence was prevalent in the northern Eastern Cape towns of Elliot, Ugie, Indwe and Cala, but many cases were being swept under the carpet by many households especially if the attacker was a relative.
“Many women and girls are raped, but people fear to come forward because of stigmatisation of victims and this problem is not reported in the media,” Nqoko said.