Source: SW Radio Africa
South African rights groups, labour movements and individuals are all rallying behind a young Zimbabwean woman who was left disfigured when acid was thrown in her face last week.

The 23 year old, who has asked to remain anonymous and is just being called 'Susan', was on her way home from work in Cape Town last Tuesday when the attack happened.

She was in a mini bus taxi when two men asked the driver to stop. When the vehicle had stopped, one of the men threw a bottle of acid in Susan's face before fleeing with his friend. One of the men has since "Susan" with her employer been arrested and charged with "intent to do grievous bodily harm."

The motive behind the attack is not yet known, but "Susan" has insisted it has nothing to do with the fact that she is Zimbabwean. She told a media briefing in Cape Town on Wednesday night that the men had no way of knowing that she was a Zimbabwean national.

Wearing a full facial bandage with just her right eye and very swollen lips visible, Susan told the media: "I think it was just men taking advantage of me."

Susan, and a fellow passenger who suffered burns when the acid splashed onto his legs, were rushed to hospital by the taxi driver. She underwent her first surgery that evening. But it is the start of a long, painful process.

Braam Hanekom, the head of the refugee rights group PASSOP, has since set up a fund to try and help Susan as much as possible on her difficult journey. He told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that she will likely have to undergo at least six surgeries "before her face is anything close to normal again." He said the cost will be almost half a million rand and she faces at least four years of rehabilitation.

"This is a grotesque crime. At the moment it looks likely that this was a gender based attack, but regardless, it's a shocking, tragic thing that has happened," Hanekom said, adding: "She will be scarred for life. Her life has changed forever because of this."

Susan's employer, Dr Elisabeth Parker and her husband, have already paid almost R30 000 towards her surgeries and have expressed their shock over the attack.

At the same time plastic surgeon Dr Mark van der Velde, who has offered his services for free, said that in a case like Susan's the public health sector did not have adequate funding, resources or the specialised care to address her specific needs.

South Africa's trade union federation COSATU has also condemned the attacked. The union grouping's provincial gender co-coordinator, Elmo Geswindt, said the crime was "inhumane" and that trade unions, together with the government, needed to introduce more stringent laws to ensure that women were protected from such violent crimes.

Hanekom meanwhile said the response to Susan's plight has been inspiring, and he added that he hoped the trust fund set up for her would help "undo an injustice."

"It was an attack on human dignity and by helping we can try and make something good come out of something so evil," he said.

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