Dr Legodimo Madihlaba, a South African paediatrician alleges suffering a double blow after being sexually assaulted at an airport in Egypt and subsequently ridiculed by those who ought to help her.
In the sexual harassment drama, a man dressed like an officer working at the airport removed her facial mask and attempted to forcefully kiss her while fondling her breasts and touching her private parts – whilst she fought back saying NO.
This horrible event took place at a basement she had been deceitfully led to by two men whom she asked to show her an airport lounge.
He then allegedly started groping her buttocks, asking her to kiss him and wanting them to go to the toilet.
“It’s horrible…it’s as good as if it did happen (being raped), even though I escaped. I feel so scared. To some extent now, when I have to go out, I look at myself and ask: Am I decent? Am I right?”
Then she phoned her husband, who got in touch with the department of international relations and cooperation and a Mr Malgas from the South African embassy in Egypt then assisted her.
It was confirmed that Madihlaba had tried to report the incident to officials at Cairo airport. South Africa’s ambassador to Egypt, Vusi Mavimbela confirmed that he had sent a diplomatic note on March 15 to the foreign affairs ministry in Egypt.
In the note, Mavimbela requests for assistance in the matter and for a police case number.
He also writes: “The mission noted with concern that during the process, the South African female citizen was not afforded the assistance of a female police officer to assist her in her ordeal. It further appears that the officials assisting Dr Madihlaba were not giving the matter the necessary attention that it required.”
Madihlaba has also reported the matter to the international relations and cooperation department headquartered in Pretoria.
Madihlaba reported the incident to airport authorities, whom she alleges were aloof and unsympathetic with her and asks “So what do you want to do?”, in an insensitive manner.
She revealed that their tone was hostile and they asked her that if she wanted to take the matter up, she would miss her flight.
“They kept asking me, ‘What do you want to do?’ I was in tears … There was no sympathy, or at least some empathy, from the police.
I asked them: ‘Are you going to give me another ticket? Are you going to give me a place to stay?’ No one answered; they just looked at me. So, I said: ‘I want to go home; this place is horrible.’”
She said this kind of harassment is a norm at the airport from what she gathered. She wants justice from this painful experience that leaves a deep and eternal scar of shame and regret on the victim.
All these happened on her way back to South Africa on March 10 at Cairo International Airport in Egypt, having attended a medical conference in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Her return trip entailed a four-hour layover at Cairo International Airport before boarding a plane headed for OR Tambo International Airport – hence she sought a lounge to wait.
She fell into the trap after passing through customs and was directed to a lift by people at the transfer desk. Two men (one wearing a blue-coat and the other a white shirt) then got into lift with and she asked the uniform man to assist her. She had thought he was an official.
When they reached the third floor, the uniformed man led her to another lift, where he selected the lowest floor. They were the only two people in the lift.
On reaching the last floor, she realised that there was no sign of a lounge and that the area he had taken her to was deserted. She managed to escape the man’s clutches.
She has chosen to reveal her identity because of the scourge of gender-based violence plaguing not only this country, but the world at large too.
She seeks justice to ensure that no other South African woman, or woman of any other nationality, travelling through Cairo will suffer the same violation and humiliation.