A mother in Limpopo whose 15-year-old daughter was raped did a deal with the policeman working on the case to drop the charges in exchange for a case of beer.
And this was the second time the mother had done this after her child was brutalised.
When the girl was just 12, she was raped for the first time – and the mother accepted R3 000 as payment for dropping the charges.
Independent child rights consultant Joan van Niekerk says these stories are not unique and paint a sad picture of a system which routinely fails to protect children, even when they are brave enough to come forward about rape and abuse.
“We see it in all sorts of situations.”
The plight of a teenaged girl from Bethal, Mpumalanga, typifies what is happening.
When she was 15, she was raped by a stranger in Kriel. Nomalanga’s* ordeal was far from over when she returned home to report the incident: her family simply did not believe her. A year later, her older brother began to sexually abuse her, emboldened by the assumption that nobody would believe her.
He was right. Neither her stepmother nor her father have entertained her many cries for help, labelling her a liar, a rebellious teenager vying for attention and trying to “tear the family apart”.
“Everyone stands with him at home. I’ll be killed, I’m afraid my family is capable of doing anything for their reputation. Ngiye saba (I am scared),” says Nomalanga when asked about whether she tried to open a case against her brother.
A painstakingly written letter, in which the 16-year-old tries to explain her ordeal, was forwarded to journalists by an adult close to her in the hope that it would reach the highest offices in government.
“On 10 January 2019, I was raped by my brother. It was one of the horrible things I cried more than I did first [sic]. I screamed for help he told me he will kill me if I spoke,” she says. “He kept on raping me several times no one knew. I’m scared of my brother even now and seeing him is the most painful thing of all.”
On the weekend Nomalanga opened up to The Citizen, her brother was on his way home and she was in a panic. Every time her brother comes home, he arrogantly addresses his sister’s accusations by asking the family if she is “still sulking at me”.
Over and over again, she is forced to listen to her family ridicule her and question her sanity, while refusing to get her the help she so desperately pleads for.
What has driven her to suicidal thoughts is that, apart from the emotional abuse she suffers at home, her social worker reprimanded her for not speaking up sooner.
“What were you afraid of? There is nothing painful about talking,” the social worker told her.
Nomalanga was assigned a social worker through the help of one of her teachers.
Despite this, she has not received therapy, still lives with her alleged perpetrator and there is no case opened against any of the people alleged to have raped her.
Asked how a family remains unchecked while refusing to assist a child in their care who has suffered abuse, Comfort Ngobe, spokesperson of the Mpumalanga department of social development, confirmed officials were looking into the matter and investigating, among other things, the conduct of the social worker, whose name is only being omitted at the request of Nomalanga.
She fears retribution speaking out.
The system has failed her, she said flatly, and she is at a point where she is about to give up hope.
Van Niekerk said what makes for cases like these especially shocking is that they happen despite the involvement of a social worker, as in Nomalanga’s situation.
She said under normal circumstances, such a social worker would have to be investigated and face the possibility of losing their job, especially given that social work is a regulated profession.
Van Niekerk pointed out that, under the Sexual Offences Act, the parents of Nomalanga and the social worker had a responsibility to make sure that police were notified if an alleged sexual offence had taken place.
Even in the case where the perpetrator is unknown, a docket should be opened.
The child was entitled to an array of services, including therapy and the option to be sent to a place of safety.
* Not her real name
– The Citizen