A six-year-old girl who was severely beaten, tied up and deprived of food, allegedly by her two relatives and two neighbours in the area of Cacadu, is fighting for her life in hospital.
The three women and a man, all of whom cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, were refused bail in the Lady Frere magistrate’s court last week.
Community members who were present in court to oppose bail alleged that a resident had made the shocking revelation at the child’s homestead in Cacadu extension last month. Police were then immediately informed to attend to the matter.
Handing down her ruling on bail last week on Monday, magistrate Felicia Spangenberg said the girl was fighting for her life in hospital. She is receiving treatment for internal bleeding.
Spangenberg said overwhelming evidence was placed before the court relating to injuries sustained by the victim who identified the four accused and linked them to the attack. “This court heard evidence that the victim was abused over a period of time, tied up with a rope, beaten with a stick, pipe and shoes. The court also heard evidence that on the arrival of the police on the day in question the victim was still found tied up. There is also evidence placed before court that there is possible evidence of rape as well. In terms of the criminal law, sexual offences and related matters, the definition of rape was elaborated on by the legislature to include rape not just being with genital organs.”
In affidavits for mitigation, the four accused asked to be released on bail to go back to their places of employment and their children. “Yet the same person that they were supposed to care for is now a victim, severely beaten. The question is on whether the applicants before court are fit and proper to be released on bail. Regrettably, this court cannot grant bail,” said Spangenberg.
She continued: “The child is still suffering and fighting for her life in hospital. When that child is being released, he or she should have the opportunity to go back home and should not have the fear of being intimidated by a family member to deny what has happened. There is an obligation on us as adults to protect our children from harm. Physical and emotional abuse is something that our president on a daily basis is asking us to protect.”
The magistrate said the accused were to remain in custody pending trial, adding that they had the right to appeal the judgment, “Furthermore, the state is ordered to report the matter to the department of social development to thoroughly investigate charges of child abuse and neglect because this child has been suffering for far longer than what has been reported.”
Spangenberg also stated that circumstances needed to be investigated to ascertain that the child will have a safe environment when she returns from hospital. She added that the case was to remain a priority and the state had to obtain a psychology report to ascertain the child’s emotional intelligence as evidence during trial.
Community members who braved the cold weather on Monday danced in jubilation outside court after learning that the accused were denied bail.
Ward councillor Nomzi Tyulu said community members were against the release of the accused as they were not welcomed back in that area. She said they would continue to support the child and will be present until they were handed down a severe sentence.
The accused were remanded in custody for the director of public prosecution’s decision on which court would hear the trial. They will appear in court again on September 22.