An underage girl who was allegedly married off to a grown man as part of the illegal practice of ukuthwala (forced marriage) has been rescued in the rural hinterlands of Ngcobo.
Mthatha police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela confirmed that police were investigating a case linked to ukuthwala.
The Daily Dispatch has established that the girl, now 16, was married to a 28-year-old in 2015 when she was only 14.
The mother of the victim said the girl was taken away by social workers and police last week.
This was while she was visiting her husband’s home in Bokleni village in Ngcobo. She is originally from Sitholeni village in Sundwana administrative area.
“We are busy finalising the charges,” said Fatyela.
The victim has been taken to a place of safety. A source within the department of social development confirmed this on Thursday. She said the girl had escaped and went home around May only for her to be re-abducted earlier this month.
She had been in Grade 6 at a school near her home village.
“Social workers went to assess the situation at her home and found out that she could not stay there as both her mother and uncle, who apparently married her to an older man, seem not to understand the gravity of what had been done,” said the source.
The victim’s mother pleaded with authorities to return her daughter to her, saying she had come home out of her free will earlier in the year after a fallout with one of her in-laws.
Ever since then she had been enrolled in school, she said.
“The only time she did not go to school was last year when she fell sick. She then went to stay with her husband in Johannesburg where he works,” she said.
The mother said she’d had surgery on her head and was now blind. “I have no one to cook and wash for me now. She [my daughter] has been doing all of that when she came back. Please bring my daughter back.”
Khula Community Development Projects director Petros Majola, whose organisation fights for children’s rights, said the girl’s story was a disgrace – no teenager should be expected to run a household. He said the so-called husband should instead be charged with statutory rape.