Rape of teens & baby, The Star, 4 November 2002
By Jillian Green
It was meant to be a celebration of youth on National Children's Day - until two girls were raped and a boy was stabbed.
This is the second year that National Children's Day celebrations at Zoo Lake have taken a tragic turn. Last year, in celebrations arranged by the Gauteng Department of Social Services and Population Development and Telkom, Maria Mochabela, 13, and Lucky Ravhutsi, 13, drowned after their overloaded boat capsized.
On Saturday, police caught a youth raping a 15-year-old girl at unofficial National Children's Day celebrations at Zoo Lake. According to Johannesburg police spokesperson Captain Mashadi Selepe, an 18-year-old suspect was arrested "in the act". He is set to appear in court soon.
'A sign of where we are as a country'
A man who raped a 14-year-old girl in a second assault was at large on Sunday night.
Besides the rapes, a 16-year-old boy was stabbed and wounded at the event.
About 6 000 youths had gathered at Zoo Lake to celebrate National Children's Day.
Selepe said this year's event had not been organised by the usual organisers.
"In fact, we had no knowledge of the event. We should have been involved in policing it, but this was an illegal gathering."
She added: "Police urge parents to confirm such events with authorities, and find out about their children's whereabouts."
Gauteng Department of Social Services and Population Development spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi said the department had not been involved in the event.
"After last year's drownings, a commission of inquiry recommended that we stop holding such a huge function and rather hold smaller events," he said.
The department had declared October children's month and had held activities in various areas.
Childline South Africa chairperson Joan van Niekerk said the rapes were "a sign of where we are as a country".
"These sorts of rapes are not isolated to one area, and there are no quick-fix solutions. We have reached a point where people act without concern for the implications of their actions," Van Niekerk added.
"I feel sad beyond words, especially having worked with victims of rape and seeing how damaged they are."
Attempts to obtain comment from the City of Johannesburg, which would have had to approve such an event, proved unsuccessful on Sunday.
In another horrifying incident at the weekend, a 5-month-old baby was raped in a Hillbrow flat on Saturday night after being left unattended by her mother.
The infant was on Sunday night recovering in Johannesburg Hospital from reconstructive surgery to mend her injuries.
According to Selepe, the child was left alone in a flat by her 28-year-old mother.
"The child's 40-year-old father had gone out and left the child in the care of the mother. When he returned, he found the mother fighting on a street corner in the area," Selepe said.
"He took her back to the flat, and the door was found unlocked. But it was only when the mother was changing the baby's napkin that the parents began to suspect something... there was blood on it."
The Johannesburg Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit was called, and the child was taken to a district surgeon, who confirmed that she had been raped.
Hospital chief executive officer Sagie Pillay said: "She has undergone surgery and is in a stable condition."
According to Selepe, police have no suspects, but the baby's parents had been taken in for questioning.
She added that there had been a recommendation by social workers that the baby be removed from the custody of the mother.
Johannesburg police area commissioner Oswald Reddy condemned the incident. "Police are not going to rest until the perpetrator is brought to book," he said.