A nine-year-old Orange Farm girl, who disappeared for four days, was found raped and fatally stabbed in the veld not far from her home.
Two days later – on Sunday – angry residents set an alleged rapist alight and burnt down his suspected accomplice’s house for allegedly kidnapping and raping young Palesa Mahase and stabbing her to death.
Residents also burnt down a house believed to be owned by Palesa’s mother’s boyfriend.
On Monday, about 100 residents marched to Orange Farm police station, demanding that four residents arrested for arson be released.
The girl was kidnapped last Sunday by two men who gained access to her home by kicking open the door at about 1pm.
Palesa and her two siblings, aged six and four, were alone at home at the time.
The intruders helped themselves to food in pots on the stove, before ordering the girl to put on her shoes. They stole knives and took the house keys with them.
The children’s mother, Marriam, had left them by themselves to check on her boyfriend’s sister. She took her two-year-old son with her.
On Monday, Marriam said her boyfriend arrived to fetch her at his sister’s house after he realised that Palesa was not with her siblings.
She said the search to find her second-born child began immediately, adding that she reported her child missing at Orange Farm police station the next day.
“The community were helpful until the last day. It wasn’t easy for me and my family,” the mother-of-five said.
On Friday morning, while curious residents gathered in the veld after the discovery of Palesa’s body, her mother was nowhere to be seen.
She had taken her six-year-old daughter to Vereeniging to meet social workers to give a statement about what transpired the day Palesa was abducted.
“Palesa’s sister witnessed everything. She was able to describe one of the men to me and my boyfriend when we got home,” Marriam said.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she began to describe what a wonderful child Palesa was. “She loved her siblings. She was a friendly child who loved playing with other children and watching cartoons on TV.”
She is pleading with readers to help her give Palesa a proper burial. The unemployed mother said she was hoping the community could also assist her.
A suspect was expected to appear in the Vereeniging Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on charges of kidnapping, rape and murder.
Palesa’s mother, 37, is also hoping her boyfriend might help police with investigations. She has not seen him since Thursday.
“He goes missing and my child is found dead the next day. What must I think?” she asked.