The parents of a 13-year-old girl raped on her way back from school have laid the blame squarely on the North West department of education’s alleged failure to resume with learner transport.
“Since the schools reopened, the learners have been walking to and from school, which is far, on the other side of the village. They have to walk through the bush and now she has been raped. This would not have happened if there was a bus,” a relative, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, said.
After the incident on Monday, the residents of Slagboom and Makobyane villages closed down three schools, Lebogang High School Lobang in Mokobyane, Nyakale Primary School in Mokobyane and Makgobola Setshedi High School in Slagboom.
After the rape incident, infuriated residents severely assaulted the suspect who allegedly raped the grade 9 learner and robbed another learner of a cellphone. He is fighting for his life in hospital.
“The children had a bus when the schools closed last year but the bus did not show up when the schools reopened. The worst part is that we do not know what is happening,” the relative said.
According to provincial police, three learners were walking home from school when two were grabbed by a man.
“One managed to break free and ran away. The suspect allegedly raped one of the girls who reported the matter later to her parents,” police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said.
He also confirmed community members of Lebotlwane, Slagboom and Mokubyane went if search of the suspect.
“During the search, they met a man whom they severely assaulted despite not being sure if he was the perpetrator. As a result, the man was admitted to hospital. The investigation continues,” Mokgwabone said.
He pleaded with members of the community to refrain from taking the law into their own hands and report criminal acts to the police for investigation.
“It is disturbing, as in some instances innocent people are assaulted and killed during illegal acts of mob justice,” Mokgwabone said.
Provincial department spokesperson Elias Malindi said their psychologists were providing counselling to the victim and her family.
He said they were following up with the provincial transport department on why there was no bus for the learners.
“It is their responsibility to provide the bus, we give them the list of schools and routes so we are obviously following up on the matter to establish what exactly is happening as these are our children, they are travelling to our schools,” Malindi said.