Pretoria – Dr. George Mukhari Academic Hospital chief executive Richard Lebethe pleaded with the public on Thursday to give relevant authorities time to investigate the alleged rape of a 2-year-old girl who was in isolation for Covid-19.
Lebethe was speaking outside the hospital where members of the EFF held a peaceful demonstration demanding answers about the alleged incident.
He said the hospital had instituted its own investigation into the matter. He pleaded with the public to treat the matter as sub judice, not only for the hospital but for the family’s sake.
“Such things not only hurt the family but also hurt the staff because the child went through many hands during their time here. And until such time that we directly identify the person responsible, everyone in the hospital will look like the perpetrator.
“As the CEO of this hospital, I am taking full responsibility for this and anyone who has issues with what has happened can question me.”
The deputy secretary of the EFF in Tshwane, Ntebogeng Nguni, said they wanted to show the family of the victim solidarity, but also called on Lebethe to provide clarity on what happened.
Nguni said the issue of rape and particularly the scourge of gender-based violence remained rampant in communities as criminals clearly felt they could get away with it.
“The justice system is not doing anything and it’s for this reason criminals still feel brazen enough to commit these crimes. They are aware that whatever they do, they will get away with it,” said Nguni.
“It doesn’t matter where they are, be it this hospital or outside in our communities, perpetrators need to know that they will be held accountable and face the full might of the law.”
Thabiso Hlongwane, the spokesperson for the Department of Social Development, said the department was dismayed that the delay in investigating the matter meant crucial DNA evidence had been lost.
Hlongwane said MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi visited the family and ensured they received the necessary psychosocial support.
He said the department would not be taking this matter lightly and would ensure that a full-time social worker would be made available to help the family through the ordeal.
“We can’t allow such things to continue, especially in a public facility. The MEC has called for harsh action to be taken against those responsible once they have been identified,” said Hlongwane.
According to reports, the aunt of the 2-year-old was referred to the hospital on June 15 after the child exhibited signs she was struggling to breathe.
Upon arrival, staff at the hospital allegedly told the mother to go home as the child might have Covid-19 and would need to be isolated.
However, upon being discharged from the hospital the following day, the mother realised that her child was not her normal self and discovered she had been sexually assaulted.
Civil rights movement #NotInMyName has also threatened protests over the handling of the incident.
“The management of the Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital, the staff involved and the SAPS must all account. We need answers as a matter of urgency,” said Siyabulela Jentile, a social activist and founder of the #NotInMyName movement in the country.
“But what is more important and central to our collective effort at this time is to offer support to the little girl and her family. Her life may never be the same again, as her innocence has been taken away from her in this very inhuman manner.
“What happened to the girl calls for a deeper reflection on the kind of people we have become as South Africans, and South African men in particular. I hang my head in shame at the thought of someone who looks at a 2-year-old and sees a potential sexual gratification object,” he said.
#NotInMyName activists are scheduled to protest at the hospital today.
The family of the girl complained that the hospital had treated them with disdain after the alleged rape.
The toddler’s aunt said a false account purporting that Lebethe had only now learnt about the incident, was being pushed. The aunt said she had been in regular contact with Lebethe, the hospital’s communications desk and other staff, but they could not help the family.
“For the hospital to turn around today and say they do not know about our case, that is a naked lie. The hospital has called me on different occasions. I now know some of their names. They cannot lie about this,” she said.
The SAPS said on Monday that it had launched an investigation into the rape allegations. It said an investigation had also been launched into allegations that the police gave the family the run-around when they tried to open a case at Ga-Rankuwa police station.
“The management of the SAPS in Gauteng has noted the allegations and views them in a very serious light. The acting provincial commissioner of the SAPS in Gauteng, Major-General Johan Ndlovu, has sanctioned an urgent departmental investigation into these allegations.
“The outcome of this internal investigation will guide what happens next,” SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said.