/ 15 November 2001

‘Baby rape part of apartheid’s legacy’

Cape Town | Thursday

SOUTH African Deputy President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday attributed the gang-rape of a nine-month-old baby to a lack of morality he blamed on apartheid.

Zuma said during a debate in the National Assembly on the rape in the small northern township of Louisville that “something was seriously amiss” in the country.

Six men, aged between 24 and 66, are accused of raping and sodomising the baby girl.

The baby, who has been dubbed “Tshepang” (“Have Hope”) to protect her identity, suffered injuries to her vagina and anus.

Doctors say she is recovering slowly physically, but is likely to have long-term psychological trauma.

The case has created an uproar in South Africa, with hundreds of demonstrators calling for harsh penalties.

“Apartheid left a legacy of breakdown of the moral fabric of our society. Apartheid sowed the seeds of the breakdown of the family. The molestation of children is a symptom of this degeneration,” Zuma said.

South Africa is believed to have one of the highest incidences of rape in the world and police reports show that 58 children fall victims to rape or sexual assault every day — a figure contested as too low by activists, who believe many child-rapes are not reported.

MP Lulu Xingwana of the ruling African National Congress said “Tshepang” would be maimed for life.

Xingwana said the irony was that the child’s mother had become pregnant after she was raped and that her grandmother too had been raped “in the same house where the baby was raped.”

She angrily listed similar cases in the past month, including those of a 14-month-old baby raped by her uncles and of a three-year-old girl who died after she was raped by her father.

Xingwana blamed the increase in child rape on a widespread myth that having sex with a virgin will cure HIV/Aids, which afflicts one in nine South Africans.

“People must stop thinking that raping a virgin will cure Aids. There is no cure.” But opposition politicians laid the blame at government’s door.

“The government sits idly by and watches while the children suffer,” the official opposition Democratic Alliance’s Mike Waters said.

Paul Swartz, another member of the alliance, called on the government to “face South Africa, look the nation in the eye and stop the most hellish manifestation of a society rotten to the core.”

On Tuesday more than 1 000 demonstrators protested when the suspects, aged between 22 and 66, made a preliminary appearance in a court in the central town of Kimberley. – AFP