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Lion Mother: The woman who fought with her daughter’s rapists


Nokubonga Qampi has been known as the “Lion Mother” in South Africa after killing one of three men who raped her daughter and injured others.

She was charged with murder – but after a public complaint the charges were dropped, and she was able to put effort into making sure her daughter recovered from her injuries.

It was midnight when the day woke Nokubonga from sleep.

The girl who was calling her was 500 kilometers from her home – and told her daughter, Siphokazi, that she was being raped by three men whom she knew well

Nokubonga’s first response was to call the police, but no one answered. He knew the thought that it would take time to reach his village, a lush green region with mountains in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

She was the only person who could help her daughter.

“I was scared, but I had to go because she was my daughter,” she said.

“I grew up thinking that by the time I got there, he would probably be dead … Because she knew the rapists, and because they knew her and knew she knew them, they might think they had to kill her so she wouldn’t go and report them.”

Siphokazi had visited her friends in the village but had been left alone, asleep when they left outside about seven o’clock at night. Later, three men who were drinking alcohol in an old house attacked him.

Nokubonga walking in the village

The grass-roofed Nokubonga house has two rooms, where she has been sleeping, and a stove where he took a knife.

“I carried it when I was walking towards the scene because I did not trust my safety,” he said. “It was dark and I had to use my phone flashlight to look my way.”

She heard her daughter screaming as she approached the house where she was. As she entered her room, a light from her phone enabled her to get a grim picture of her daughter being raped.

“I was scared… I just stood at the door and asked them what they were doing. When they saw it was me, they came angrily to follow me, that’s when I thought I needed to protect myself, it was a direct step,” says Nokubonga

Nokubonga declined to discuss in detail what was next

A judge in the Nokubonga case against the rapists said it showed he was “very angry” when she saw one of the men raping her daughter, with the other two standing on the sidelines with their pants on their knees, waiting for their turn.

Judge Mbulelo Jolwana went on to say, “I understood that she was very angry.” But what she remembers today about her story, he admits that she was afraid of them and her daughter – and her face shows sadness and pain.

It is clear, however, that when the men angrily followed him her she defended herself with a knife – and that she stabbed them as they tried to escape where neither of them jumped through the window. Two were injured and one died instantly.

Thankfully she didn’t stay there to check how much the attackers were injured. She took her daughter to the house of a friend who lived nearby.

Photo caption,

Siphokazi and Nokubonga in January, 16 months after the rape attack

When police arrived, Nokubonga was arrested and taken to a police station where she was detained

“I was thinking about my daughter,” she said. “I had no information about her. It was a very scary incident.”

At the same time Siphokazi was in the hospital fearing her mother’s condition and thinking that she was incarcerated was very sad.

In the 18 months since the rape, they have been able to move on with their lives.

Buhle Tonisethe, the lawyer who represented Nokubonga in court, recalls that they all seemed disappointed when he first met them after the attack.

It is very rare in South Africa for a rape case to be addressed except to mention just a little bit in the media. This may be just a small part of the many rapes in the country where an estimated 110 people are raped a day – a situation that President Cyril Ramaphosa recently described as a national crisis.

After her trial ended, she decided to reveal her secret in order to reassure other rape victims

Nokubonga also does not show anger as she is compared to the media that she sings

“I can tell someone that even after such an attack there is life, you can go back to society. You can still live your life,” she says.

She hopes that her daughter’s rapists will be able to make a success of their lives. “I hope that when they complete their sentence in prison they will return as a changed people,” she says, “narrating the event and becoming a living example.”

Source: BBC Swahili

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