Editor's Note: This post contains graphic language and details of violence.
Update: This article was edited on Sept. 27 to change the age of the girl involved from six years old to seven.
This past weekend was supposed to be particularly joyful for South Africans. The country was buzzing with the excitement of the long weekend to celebrate Heritage Day on 24 September.
For one mother in Pretoria, however, the weekend turned into a nightmare that many women and children in the country know too well.
According to multiple reports from diners who were at Dros restaurant in Pretoria’s Silverton suburb, a man sitting alone in the smoking section moved closer and closer to the restaurant’s play area.
There, he kept an eye on a seven-year-old girl playing by herself before following her to the toilet.
“He allegedly snatched her from the female restroom, blocked her mouth, and took her to the men’s restroom where he raped her,” an eye-witness told The Citizen newspaper.
Noticing that her child was gone, her mother asked the childminder where she was.
“Her mother went to the restroom but did not find her child,” said a witness. “She heard a noise in the men’s restroom and was suspicious. She tried to open the door but it was blocked.”
“The mother caused a commotion and the alleged rapist eventually opened the door,” the witness said. “He was completely naked and so was the child; the child was bleeding from the groin.”
Shock, anger and disgust are some of the words used by South Africans when the news broke.
It is not only that once again, a child’s safety was compromised in the most harrowing way, or that another person had become part of South Africa’s shocking rape statistics.
It is also that this happened in a supposedly safe space but no one raised the alarm when they noticed the man’s odd and alarming behaviour.
As multiple reports state, “the man had allegedly been scouting and preying on the child for some time while she was in the children’s area, and waited for her to go to the toilet.”
Police arrested the 20-year-old suspect at the scene. He remains in police custody while the case is being further investigated.
The case will be heard at the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on 2 October.
- If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can find resources for support here.
The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.