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Family in Brakpan terrorised for laying rape charges

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“They always break the door and enter with guns, pangas, golf clubs and sticks. They beat us”

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A widow in Tsakane, Brakpan, says she and her family are being terrorised and intimidated by people who want the family to drop rape charges against a man in the township.

Eight months ago her daughter was allegedly raped. The accused, Michael Rhulani, was granted bail in March. The matter was last heard in Tsakane Magistrates Court on 10 October.

Community members say they caught him in the act on 16 March. They beat him before handing him over to police. They claim he has relatives in the police force involved in the case, but GroundUp could not confirm this.

The widow says at night people shout insults and throw stones on the roof of her house. She has been attacked in her home several times, she says, the first time on 22 March, again in June, July, September and most recently in October.

Her daughter was in the house during the attacks. The men threatened to kill her. She has not yet testified in court.

On 17 October at 1am, Dudu Sibiya, a neighbour, says she heard screams. She blew a whistle, which the community uses to alert people.

“There were two police vans outside [the home], although the men were all wearing civilian clothes. We even wrote down the number plates of the vans.”

Two of the numbers given to GroundUp start with a B, which is usually a police vehicle registration.

“When we asked them why they were attacking the family they said we must stay out of their business or they will kill us,” says Sibiya.

“They always break the door and enter with guns, pangas, golf clubs and sticks. They beat us and threaten that if we do not drop the rape charges we will die. They say there is no real evidence against the man who is accused of raping my daughter,” says the widow.

Sibiya says the attackers left when the community went to help the woman, but they promised to return if the family did not cooperate.

“This has become a community problem because police are not helping. We came out in our numbers when we heard the whistle. Police vans were outside the house and the men fired warning gunshots before they left,” said Emmanuel Mohlala, another community member.

“They call us Shangaans and say we do not deserve any justice and that we should go back to Mozambique,” says the woman, who is Xitsonga-speaking and a citizen of South Africa for over 20 years. “I do not sleep at night. This is the horror my family has been experiencing for the past eight months.”

She and her older son were arrested in June, accused of damaging a police vehicle. Community members helped to bail them out. The charges were dropped.

She says the attackers took her son’s ID. “They said we were Shangaans and that we should not have SA IDs. I begged them to leave the ID, but they refused.”

“I have been trying to put money together to have him apply for a replacement, but l earn little from selling recyclables … The money will not come together,” she says.

She survives as a waste picker and sometimes relies on people in her community to support her.

“We have been to the police several times to ask them to help recover the ID, but they have not been helping us,” said her son. “Our family has been through a lot of pain. First, my sister was raped and now we are being terrorised,” he says. “All we want is justice for my sister. Since when was that a crime?”

The next court date is 1 November.

Sergeant Harry Manaka, spokeperson for SAPS Ekurhuleni region, said, “We are following up on intimidation charges made by the family. The matter is still being investigated and we are not taking it lightly. We are still trying to verify if the people being complained against are indeed police officers. As the police we do not tolerate such behaviour against members of the community.”

Identifying information has been removed from this article.

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TOPICS:  Crime Gender Policing Rape

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