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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 16:35 GMT
SA baby rape case collapses
Protest against the abuse of women and children
The case triggered a series of nationwide protests
Six men accused of raping a nine-month-old baby girl walked free on Thursday after the charges against them were dropped.

The case, which shocked the nation, hinged on DNA evidence which came back negative, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported.


I think the police acted in good faith

Albert van Zyl, defence lawyer
The prosecution then withdrew the charges due to lack of evidence.

Baby Tshepang was attacked last October after her 16-year-old mother went out shopping, leaving her in the care of the accused men.

When Tshepang's mother returned to the Louisvale house, she found the infant covered in blood. She had been raped and sodomised.

John Radebe, 24, Frans Mosterd, 28, Joffie Freeman, 32, Piet van Rooi, 39, Jan Mienies, 45 and Jan van Wyk, 66, were arrested shortly afterward.

Long delay

Defence lawyer Albert van Zyl told the Johannesburg daily newspaper, The Star, that the test results came back negative.

"It is the truth. The director of public prosecutions told me that the results were negative," said Mr Van Zyl.

He added that he did not know why DNA and sperm tests had taken so long.

But he told SABC public radio: "I think the police acted in good faith".

Demonstrations

When news of the rape first came to light, it triggered protests across the country.

The case was the latest in a series of rapes of baby girls which left South Africans reeling with horror.

Winnie Mandela lighting a candle at an Aids march
Aids affects one in nine South Africans
About 21,000 cases of child rape were reported to police in South Africa last year.

Children under 11 are the victims in 15% of all rapes in South Africa, according to police statistics.

Convictions are secured in just 9% of all rape cases.

The attacks are fuelled by a widespread rumour that having sex with a virgin cures Aids, which reportedly affects one in nine South Africans.

Traditional healers, or witchdoctors, are blamed for spreading this idea, and encouraging child rape.

See also:

11 Dec 01 | Africa
Baby rapes shock South Africa
13 Oct 99 | Africa
Fighting back against rape
27 Nov 00 | Africa
SA: Standing up to rapists
27 Mar 01 | Africa
Sex threat to SA students
10 Jan 01 | Africa
Aids threat to SA education
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