This is the crime that led to the formation of Nonceba Family Counseling Centre in 1997. The article was written for the very first fundraising request.
Phalewe (not her real name) is six and lived with her mother, father and sister in a little house in Khayelitsha, a sprawling black township on the outskirts of Cape Town. Her house has a living room, two bedrooms and a kitchen – with a washing machine – and a small sandy back yard. The other houses in her area are the same but beyond that are the shanty towns of the squatters. Their houses are made of whatever came to hand -cardboard, corrugated iron, plastic sheets – some are no bigger than a bus shelter and few are bigger than a garden shed. The people who live there came to the big city lured by the promise of non-existent jobs. Now half a million people live there and each month, thousands more arrive from all over Africa. Life is hard and law and order has all but broken down. No-one listens to the elders any more and murders, theft, beatings and rape are all too common. One in three girls are raped by the time they reach 21. It is so common the police hardly bother to investigate. Most distressing is the number of children who are raped. Children are vulnerable because their culture insists on obedience to adults – all adults. So when an adult says “come with me” – they trust and they obey. The aids epidemic has meant that more and more men are use children for sex in the hope of avoiding the disease and a dreadful rumour has taken hold that sex with a child under two is a cure. Even babies are no longer safe. South Africa has the worst figures for child rape in the world and this area has the worst figures in South Africa – yet until December they had nowhere to go for help.
Phalewe’s father was a police sergeant and he worked where in the community where he lived. Her father was well respected and people came to him at all times of the day and night looking for help. Her father’s name is …………..and he desperately wanted to work in the child protection unit but for a long time the child protection unit was only for white children. So he worked as a detective during the day and when he came home he opened his home to the children who needed help. He knew what they were going through – he had been raped too as a child. Imagine then, how he felt the day when the man next door said to Phaliwe – “come”. She was only six – but he raped her nevertheless. Her father was distraught – but he retained sufficient control to arrest the man and take him to jail. That control snapped when the man when the rapist offered him money in compensation for the loss of his child’s virginity. He emptied his service revolver into the rapist and the man lay dead. Phalewe’s father is now in jail serving nine years in the prison which housed Nelson Mandela – and the community has lost its policeman.
One good thing has come from all this. The community realised that they must do something about this terrible problem and with some help from Rotary have opened a centre to help the victims and mount an anti- abuse campaign. The women who work there have undergone training and are working as volunteers. They need a lot more training though for the problems are enormous and they need money for the running costs of the centre. One volunteer has to decide whether she goes to work at the centre or her child goes to school. She cannot afford the bus fare for both. It is hard to imagine life where there is no social service safety net and if you have no work you have no money. That is why women endure the terrible abuse – often the man who is abusing them is all that stands between their family and starvation. They cannot fight this alone but now they have women who will stand with them. It takes courage. They don’t need a lot of money – $5000 is enough to run the centre for a year, £100 will train a community worker. Every penny donated will go directly to the centre – nothing will go on the hidden costs of “administration”. This is project which will transform the lives of countless vulnerable children. Please help.
How far we have traveled in 20 years!.
In April 2008 we moved into our own purpose built centre with a children’s safe house, abused women’s shelter, counseling suite, training facilities, community hall and offices. Great strides have been made in reducing sexual abuse of children in the area surrounding Nonceba. Now we have the capacity to reach thousands more. It is a project that has received considerable media attention having been the subject of reports on national and international television.
No child should have to endure what these children endure.