By Murray Williams
“I am still suffering, dying, daily … Life will never be the same.”
These were the agonised words of the woman who was raped while pregnant in Gordon’s Bay in 2006, shortly after her alleged attacker was acquitted by the Cape High Court.
The woman, whose identity the Cape Argus has protected since May 22, 2006, first spoke out bravely of her ordeal the day after an armed gang of nine men arrived from Khayelitsha.
‘I want to know what happens to them. I want closure’
They broke their way into a house in Gordon’s Bay and bludgeoned 78-year-old Joy van Aarde to death.
They then moved next door, where they surprised the woman, her then fiance, and his son. The three were tied up.
One of the gang then forced the woman, who was pregnant at the time, into a bathroom and raped her.
She gave birth four months later. And, since then, she has awaited the closure she hoped would come when her attackers were sentenced.
“I want to know what happens to them. I want closure.
‘It was a nightmare’
“From there, it can only get better,” she told the Cape Argus in September 2006.
On Tuesday last week, Judge Rosheni Allie sentenced Thembile Ngxowe and Lungile Mayo to life imprisonment for murder, two terms of 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances, and two terms of seven years each for housebreaking with the intent to steal.
Luyanda Zaza, Simon Lolo and Mzamu Ncwana received lesser sentences because of their age at the time.
Zaza and Ncwana were both 18, and Lolo 22. Zaza and Lolo were sentenced to 20 years for murder, and 15 years and seven years for the robbery and housebreaking charges respectively.
Ncwana, who had no previous convictions, was sentenced to 18 years for murder, and 12 years and five years for the robbery and housebreaking respectively. A sixth member of the gang, Vuyile Msaseni, was jailed for three years for possessing stolen goods.
The man she accused of raping her was, however, found not guilty.
And this has left the young mother burdened with fear – on top of the trauma of the memories she lives with.
“I was very freaked out, when I heard the verdict,” she said.
“I was very worried. He’s one of the four that are free. It was a nightmare.
“I did not even know the rapist’s name. What’s stopping them from telling someone else … and him coming to find me?”
The woman told of how she had positively identified her alleged rapist in a police ID parade after the gang’s arrest. But three years later she had to point him out in court.
She was in court for three agonising days.
“I was confused, I was panicked, I was hysterical. He’d lost so much weight, his face had changed completely.
“I was paralysed by fear,” she said.
“My body was in such pain after those three days I felt like I’d given birth again.”
She had not been able to identify her rapist, and he had walked free.
Mercifully for her remaining sanity, she said, it was discovered that the man had another pending arrest on two further cases of burglary, and so was immediately re-arrested.
But that is small consolation – the life she leads now is one of permanent terror, damaged by the scars of the rape.
“Here I am suffering, dying, daily … Him not being convicted was treated almost as if they were saying they’d dropped an apple and it got bruised.”
The gang members were brought out to their house by the prosecutors, as part of the trial.
“Now they remember the house. I may be extra-protected now with perimeter beams. But I can’t get the smell of him off me.
“I keep my eyes extra-open. And I can’t leave the house by myself. Even during the daylight. I cannot be left alone. If I’m hanging out the washing, I’m wondering if someone’s jumped the wall. I cannot stop my mind from running away…”
Her relationship with her stepson has also suffered.
“It’s almost as if I’m the one with the plague. If he is left alone with me, he runs. I don’t know how to explain it. I feel alone, because no one seems to understand me.
“I just keep it all bottled up. I’m thick-skinned on the outside, but inside I’m still fragile.”
She fears her husband does not understand her in many ways either.
But the worst effect has been on the child with whom she was pregnant at the time of the rape.
After his birth in September 2006 she told the Cape Argus of her joy of holding him safely in her arms for the first time.
“I’m able to touch him, bath him. It was very tough, but it’s closure that I was able to see the pregnancy through.
“It’s an absolute relief,” she said at the time. “He’s so perfect.
“I still have fears. But because newborns can sense that something’s wrong, I can’t let myself succumb to them. It would lead to a whole chain of events.”
But despite her brave, optimistic face in 2006, she said she had come to realise the damage inflicted on her unborn son in utero.
“I blame myself for the way he is. I thought I handled stress pretty well while I was pregnant.
“But he’s showing signs of a child that was under stress. He’s an impossible child. He can’t focus.”
Since his birth, the couple has had a second child.
The woman said that when she was five-and-a-half months pregnant with her second baby – the time at which she was raped while carrying her first child – the fears reached a nightmare crescendo.
“I was worried that someone was going to hear that I was pregnant again and think now’s their chance,” she revealed.
That is just an example of the agony she now lives with. Most of the gang may now be behind bars, and she hopes her rapist will be sentenced – even if only for another burglary – but life is not pretty from inside the prison of her own torment.
“It’s my own personal hell,” she said.
“I wouldn’t expect it to be anything less. I’ve been violated in a very painful way, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.
“I’ve been ruined.”
This article was originally published on page 10 of Cape Argus on December 17, 2009