BRAVING the biting cold and rain,about 1000 residents of KwaNonqubela township in Alexandria protested last Friday at the court appearance of four youths who allegedly raped and killed an 18-year-old girl in April.
Three of the four suspects are juveniles and the fourth is 18. On April 29 they allegedly abducted Bonelwa Mkhokheli, robbed her of her cell phone, dragged her to a nearby abandoned house, and took turns raping her. After this, they allegedly bludgeoned her and set her alight before fleeing.
Neighbours alerted police about the fire and after emergency services responded and doused the blaze, police discovered the unrecognisable body of a woman, later identified as Mkhokheli.
Before last week’s court appearance, men, women and children started to gather in KwaNonqubela as early as 7.30am, said police spokesman Captain Mali Govender.
The group of approximately 1000 marched through the town escorted by marshals and closely monitored by police and traffic officers to the Alexandria Magistrate’s Court.
They chanted withplacards, banners and T-shirts with various slogans, including: “No bail”, “Stop rape”, “Let us fight for our rights” and “Stop rape and abuse”.
Govender said police had arrested the four suspects just a few hours after the dead girl was found.
“Constable Zoyisile Gxogxo followed up on information and arrested them,” she said. “They were all huddled in one bed at a shack in the same township. A weapon believed to be used in the crime was seized as well as the cell phone of the victim.”
The suspects, two of whom are 16, one 17 and the fourth 18, were represented by their legal advisorsfor a formal bail application last Friday.
Prosecutor Johan Carstens saidall four suspects faced charges of robbery, rape and murder, which are all Schedule 6 offences.
Relatives of the victim sat outside the court waiting for the outcome of the hearing, supported by members of Women Against Women Abuse who accompanied them from Port Elizabeth.
During the hearing, two of the suspects abandoned applying for bail while the other two were denied bail. The case has been postponed to June 1.