Editor’s note: This story contains language and details of sexual violence.
“Tragedy strikes again,” Bonteheuwel Ward Councillor Angus McKenzie said, when he announced the rape of an 8-month-old baby in Cape Town over the weekend.
“My level of nausea far out ways my disgust at this case,” he continued, in a statement on his Facebook page. “Our communities have lost absolute respect for themselves when an 8-month-old baby is so violently assaulted.”
No arrests have been made so far but police spokesperson captain FC van Wyk told the media that his team is investigating.
“Our detectives are following up on all leads,” he said on Tuesday.
Rape and sexual assault is a “South African nightmare”, according to academic and author Pumla Dineo Gqola. Meanwhile, statistics released last year estimated that 41% of cases of rape reported between 2015 and 2018 involved children.
At the time, Gugu Ndebele, CEO at Save the Children South Africa, said society is not doing enough to start finding solutions.
“We are aware of the rates of abuse, but people are not disgusted by it enough to take action,” she said.
Earlier this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared gender-based violence and rape in South Africa to be a “national crisis.”
He was speaking at the opening of one of 84 specialised sexual offences courts at the Booysens Magistrates Court in the south of Johannesburg.
Ramaphosa also signed a gender-based violence declaration, which sets out how the government can start addressing the issue.
He acknowledged that the efforts will require a tough stance on criminals, reforming the criminal justice system so it supports survivors instead of victimising them.
This is something McKenzie committed to doing following the assault in Cape Town.
“I will fight bail for any individual arrested for this disgusting act and will ensure that with everything in my power that the heaviest and stiffest sentence is dealt to this individual,” he wrote on Facebook.
“While heartbreaking and sickening combined, as a community we've been yet another opportunity to stand together and unite against this evil that besets us,” McKenzie wrote. "This young baby needs a united community to grow from this. We need to be in one voice condemning this moral decay of our society in the strongest terms.”
McKenzie said that while he is “shattered” by the incident, he remains hopeful that working together will “not only unite our community but also give this baby the future she deserves.”
Meanwhile, the city of Cape Town launched a Neighbourhood Safety Team (NST) in Bonteheuwel on Tuesday. The team is made up of 100 police officers who will work in shifts to patrol the community in a bid to curb violent crime.
If you have experienced sexual abuse or forms of violence in South Africa you can find resources for support here. You can find international resources here.