Cleaner allegedly rapes woman in WC Covid-19 quarantine centre

A woman has allegedly been sexually assaulted while isolating in a Covid-19 quarantine facility in Mossel Bay, Western Cape on Friday, the province's transport and public works department confirmed.

The department's head of communication, Jandré Bakker, said the alleged perpetrator was a cleaner at the facility.

He said the victim had since been removed from the quarantine site and taken to a place of safety where she was receiving support.

The suspect had also been removed from the site and charged by the South African Police Service (SAPS), Bakker said.

He added that the incident was upsetting for the department, as they had appointed a facilities management company which hired security and cleaning services for the quarantine site.

"They have got very strict rules to state that none of the staff go into any [of the rooms] or has any contact with any of the patients in the rooms, not even when they clean.

"When cleaning happens, the patients go out of the rooms, they get taken away and the rooms get deep cleaned [and] get sanitised before they go back, so there is no contact.

"That is why this is such a strange situation for us because they were never supposed to have contact," Bakker said.

He said that even if the alleged perpetrator was deemed innocent, he would not be allowed back onto the site.

He added: "Even if the investigation shows that it was not a sexual assault, it was a consensual matter, the person still transgressed the rule which says no contact with patients, and we view that in an extremely serious light."

The rules, he said, were there to protect patients and employees from both a security and health perspective.

He added that there were strict security measures at the quarantine site, saying this matter was an isolated case.

Asked if the department conducted background checks on those it appointed, Bakker said another company had been appointed to do this job on their behalf.

"All the checks [indicated] that this person does not have any prior convictions – he's a star employee which is also why it takes us by surprise.

"Obviously we are not going to have the person tried and found guilty by social media or whatever, however, we still maintain that even if there was not sexual contact it is still unacceptable," he said.

A security guard who worked at the facility and wished to remain anonymous, came forward to expose the incident, saying the woman was raped.

He said security at the facility was tight, with guards patrolling the site as well as the entrances and exits of the facility.

"It's not high security, but it is a secure site. Nobody can go in and out without being detected," he said, adding that security guards did not have access to certain areas while the alleged perpetrator, as a cleaner, did.

He added, however, that the patients should be protected against cases like this because "there are men, women and children – all the patients – sometimes on-site, walking around".

"We know about so many cases [in South Africa]… action must be taken against abusers of women and children," he said.

He explained that cases of abuse against women and children were exposed every day, yet nothing seemed to happen to the perpetrators and expressed concern that this would be a similar case.

The SAPS did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication – their comment will be added once received.

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