South Africa has seen a spate of extremely violent attacks against minor children recently. The four reported cases of sexual assault against suckling babies within the last month (all under twelve months of age in Upington, Ravensmead, Port Nolloth and Joubert Park) have shocked the country. Against a backdrop of numerous cases of brutal assault against very little children (eg, the two-year old child in Lenyenye who was allegedly systematically beaten by her biological parents until she lost her eye), there is little scientific basis for effective policy, let alone prevention and intervention. The literature reveals a paucity of studies of such predatory sexual and brutal physical assault phenomena.


The Psychological Society of South Africa, the Professional Board for Psychology and sections of the print and electronic media are collaborating on this urgent baseline research project, which will work very closely with the relevant government departments and other civil society institutions in:

1)    Adducing the actual incidence of such attacks against pre-pubescent children under ten years of age (this cut-off age has been chosen to avoid any confounding variables that may be associated with pubescence, although the incidence of attacks against older minor children will be considered as corollary data) during the period 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2001 (attacks occurring before and after this period will be considered as corollary data). To this end, all relevant media and government departments approached have granted full access to their archives in major centres countrywide such as Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Umtata, Empangeni, Nelspruit, Pietersburg, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Upington, Mafikeng, and Potchefstroom.


2)    Assessing and profiling alleged perpetrators to better understand the factors that may have contributed to their bizarre behaviour. Behavioural scientists and practitioners in various parts of the country (especially those in university settings) will conduct and/or supervise graduate students in these assessments under specific psychological protocols.   


3)    A report of the findings will become available by March 2002. This report will be presented to Cabinet, Parliament and the nation, and will posit trends that are likely to have emerged and the consequent policy implications. Future action (research, education, prevention and intervention programmes) may be informed by such a timely baseline study.


The Principal Investigator is Dr Saths Cooper (Chair: SA National IUPsyS Committee, Chair: Professional Board for Psychology) and the Co-Investigators are: Prof Lionel Nicholas (SA National ICSU Board, Univ of the Western Cape), Prof Patrick Sibaya (Univ of Zululand), Prof Nomahlubi Makunga (Univ of Zululand), and Dr Ann Watts (President: Psychological Society of SA). The Research Team includes: Dr Teresa Mashego (Univ of the North), Dr Arnold Msimeki (Univ of the North), Dr Charles Malcolm (UCT), Prof Adelaide Magwaza (Vice-Chair: Professional Board for Psychology), Prof Estelle Swart (RAU), Dr Sharon Mthembu (Univ of Zululand), Prof Mano Mahabeer (Univ of Durban-Westville), Prof Basil Pillay (Natal Univ), Prof Lourens Schlebusch (Natal Univ), and Prof Norman Duncan (Univ of Venda).



Dr Saths Cooper (011) 616-9373 083 555 1666 [email protected]

Prof Lionel Nicholas 082 202 3366

Dr Ann Watts (031) 261-8288/9 082 573 6363 [email protected]

Ms Fatima Seedat 083 564 4312 [email protected]