The horrific abduction and rape of an 11-year-old girl has fuelled fears over security at public healthcare facilities in Nelson Mandela Bay, which have “been under siege” over the past two weeks.
Abducted at knife-point from a Zwide playground, the child was taken to Dora Nginza Hospital and raped in a toilet in the administration block, which is not staffed at weekends.
Provincial health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the department was horrified by what had happened.
The young victim, who was abducted at about 1.30pm on Saturday, tried desperately with a broken bottle to break the lock of the toilet in which she had been locked after the rape.
The toilet was locked from the outside.
Security guards doing their rounds finally heard her screams about an hour later and freed the girl.
At about 11am on Sunday, a 21-year-old suspect was apprehended by a group of about 80 residents, who assaulted him before handing him over to the police.
The child’s alleged attacker was known to her.
Kupelo said the department was shocked by what had happened at the hospital, which is the main treatment centre in the metro for children, pregnant women and rape survivors.
“On Saturday morning, a man took the girl from a playground in Zwide by threatening her with a knife,” he said.
“He told security guards at the hospital he was taking her to the hospital’s accident and emergency unit.
“They are under strict instruction not to refuse anybody access to hospital and medical treatment.
“It was a well-planned rape,” Kupelo said. “There was nothing the security guards could have done to prevent it.”
Kupelo said public health facilities had been under siege by criminals in the past week, with armed robberies taking place at the Rosedale Clinic in Uitenhage and the Kwazakhele Day Hospital.
Security guards and nurses had also been robbed at Dora Nginza.
Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said the girl had been playing in Ndukwana Street when she was abducted.
He said a group of about 80 residents caught the suspect the next day and assaulted him in Ndani Street in Zwide.
“His injuries were not too serious and he was arrested by Kwazakhele police,” Beetge said.
“A meeting was held with the community at about 5pm on Sunday to thank them for finding the suspect and handing him over to police.
“We also warned them against taking the law into their own hands by assaulting the suspect.”
He said the man would face charges of abduction and rape and was due to appear in the New Brighton Magistrate’s Court today.
Kupelo said the department was opposed to the man receiving bail.
Gender activist Lindsay Ziehl, of the Yokhuselo Haven for abused women, said residents, hospital staff and the security firm should meet and decide on a “safe word” children could use to alert security guards at the hospital if they were in danger.
DA health spokeswoman Celeste Barker was horrified to hear of the attack.
“We are broken-hearted to hear about further cruelty and violence against a child. It is completely unacceptable,” she said.
Ziehl commended the child for her bravery in trying everything she could to escape from the toilet and congratulated the residents for apprehending the man.
“More communities should be this pro-active,” she said. “Of course, I do not condone the assault.”
Ziehl said existing strategies to prevent rape were not working and special measures should be put in place. “We should have classes in school to teach children what to do,” she said.
“We should have a meeting and teach everybody in that community and at the hospital a safe word so they know when a child is in trouble.”
Ziehl said she hoped the alleged rapist would be found guilty and receive a long sentence.
“What happened to this girl will affect her for the rest of her life,” she said.
“This is why it makes me so angry when these men get a sentence of two years. “They still have a life. “The child who got raped will have a lifetime of hell.”