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Uyimbube mama: South African mother fights off girl’s rapists

  • Published at 12:11 am April 10th, 2019
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Nokubonga knew, anyway, that it would take them time to reach her village, in the rolling green and brown hills of Eastern Cape

Nokubonga Qampi of South Africa's Eastern Cape province has become known as the lion mama after she killed one of three men raping her daughter and wounded the others. 

She was charged with murder - but after a public outcry the prosecution was halted, and she was able to focus her efforts on her daughter's recovery, reports BBC.

It was the middle of the night when the telephone call came, waking Nokubonga from her sleep.

The girl at the other end of the telephone line was just 500m away - and she said, Siphokazi (Nokubonga's daughter), was being raped by three men they all knew well.

Nokubonga's first response was to call the police, but there was no answer. She knew, anyway, that it would take them time to reach her village, in the rolling green and brown hills of Eastern Cape.

"I was scared, but then I was forced to go because it was my daughter," she said.

"I was thinking that when I get there, she might be dead. Because she knew the perpetrators, and because they knew her and knew she knows them, they might think they had to kill her so she couldn't report them."

Siphokazi had been visiting friends in a group of four small houses in the same village but had been left alone, asleep, when her friends went out at 01:30am local time. Then three men who had been drinking in one of the other houses attacked her. Nokubonga picked up a knife.

"I took it for me, for walking the distance between here and where the incident was taking place, because it is not safe," she said. "It was dark and I had to use the torch on my phone to light the way."

She heard her daughter's screams as she approached the house. On entering the bedroom, the light from her phone enabled her to make out the awful sight of her daughter being raped.

"I was scare. I just stood by the door and asked what they were doing. When they saw it was me, they came charging towards me, that's when I thought that I needed to defend myself, it was an automatic reaction," Nokubonga said.

The judge in the court case against the attackers said Nokubonga's testimony showed she had "become very emotional" as she saw one of the men raping her daughter, while the other two stood nearby with their trousers round their ankles, waiting to take their turn again.

It's clear, though, that when the men charged at Nokubonga she fought back with her knife - and that as she stabbed them they tried to flee, with one even jumping out of a window. Two were seriously injured, and the other died.

When the police arrived, Nokubonga was arrested and taken to the local police station, where she was kept in a cell.

"I was thinking of my child," she says. "I got no information [about her]. It was a traumatic experience."

At the same time, Siphokazi was in hospital worrying about her mother, imagining her in her cell and heartbroken about the prospect of her being jailed for years.

Still in shock, she could remember little or nothing of the attack. What she now knows she heard from her mother when she arrived at the hospital two days later, after being freed on bail.

'Lion Mama'

Among the numerous harrowing stories of rape in South Africa, Nokubonga and Siphokazi's story stood out. The press quickly latched on to the tale of a mother protecting her daughter. Unable to name Nokubonga, to protect her daughter's anonymity, one newspaper labelled her "Lion Mama", placing the story next to a picture of a lion and her cubs, after legendary South African singer Miriam Makeba’s song Mbube. The name stuck.

"For me, at first, I didn't like it because I couldn't understand," Nokubonga says. "But in the end I knew it meant I was a hero, because when you look at a lion it would protect its cubs."

"After the case was withdrawn, she calls her daughter. For the first time ever I heard her daughter laugh. I think that's when [Siphokazi] said she also wants to see the guys going to jail."

"I was told the charges had been withdrawn," she says. "I just stood there, but I was excited, I was happy. At that moment I knew the justice system is able to separate right from wrong, they were able to tell I had no intentions of taking someone's life."

"I was happy about it," says Siphokazi, now 27. "I felt a bit safe, but a part of me just felt they deserved life imprisonment."

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