A grandmother died of a heart attack after being held at gun point and forced to watch as her three terrified granddaughters were brutally raped in front of her in South Africa.

The grandmother, 71, was confronted by an intruder in a balaclava who broke into her home in Impendle in KwaZulu-Natal province.

The attacker locked the three sisters aged 19, 22 and 25 in a bedroom.

He dragged the women out one at a time to rape them in front of their horrified grandmother.

The women and the grandmother – who all lived together – have not been named. 

South African Police investigating the shocking triple rape believe the trauma of helplessly having to witness each individual ordeal caused her heart to give out.

Family spokesperson Mzandwile Ndlovu said: ‘The suspect had locked the three girls in their grandmother’s room and he brought them out one-by-one and raped them.

‘We found the grandmother in the house but she was already dead and we think that she was so horrified by what she saw in these evil acts that it caused a heart attack.

‘The three girls said the suspect did not touch her or harm her so it must be so.’

Provincial police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said: ‘An unknown suspect wearing a balaclava forced his way into a home and raped three family members at gunpoint.

‘A 71-year-old woman who witnessed the incident collapsed and died and we are appealing for anyone who may have information about the incident to contact the police.’ 

The grandmother’s 31-year-old son is appealing for witnesses to come forward to catch the perpetrator of the triple rape. He told TimesLIVE: ‘This was a truly horrific act that he did.

‘I think my mother died from a heart attack because the perpetrator did not attack her but he did pull my nieces out of a room and raped them one by one in front of her.

‘There has been no justice for my nieces who are devastated. In this case the rapist saw my mother collapse from the shock and horror but carried on. Where is the humanity?’

The South African Police launched a fresh appeal for witnesses two months after the attack.

KwaZulu-Natal Social Development Council Member spokesman Nonhlanhla Khoza said: ‘We are severely pained by these appalling incidents of rape and murder of our women.

‘We have seen a dramatic increase in incidents of gender-based violence, murder and rape. I urge the public to assist the police with any information that could lead to an arrest.

‘These incidents of callous rapes of our women will only come to an end when communities work together with the police and we send our heartfelt condolences to the victims.’ 

Police Minister Bheki Cele and gender activists have spoken out about the huge surge in gender-based violence against women and children during Covid-19 lockdown. 

Earlier this month President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the ‘surge in murders of women and children’ in South Africa since the sale of alcohol was allowed again.

On June 1 the off-licences and supermarkets were once again permitted to sell alcohol from Monday to Thursday during restricted hours.

President Ramaphosa described a horrific string of murder and rape attacks on women and children linked with the renewed sale of alcohol as ‘dark and shameful’ for the nation.

He said: ‘We note with disgust that when we face the gravest of threats from the pandemic, violent men are taking advantage of the eased restrictions to attack women and children.

‘As a man, a husband, and a father I am appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and the children of our society and we need to address it urgently’.

The President described what was happening to women and children at the hands of men in South Africa as a ‘pandemic within a pandemic’

South Africa has one of the highest femicide rates anywhere in the world with more than 2,700 women and 1,000 children murdered last year and a further 42,000 women raped. 

Since the ban on alcohol has been lifted there have been numerous horrific attacks reported on women included the shocking murder of heavily pregnant Tshegofatso Pule, 28.

She was found stabbed repeatedly in the chest and hanging by her neck from a rope in a tree in Johannesburg.

Earlier this month, mother-of-three Altecia Kortjie, 27, and her daughter Raynecia, seven, were found brutally stabbed to death in a store room at their home in Cape Town.

Tragic mother-of-three businesswoman Naledi Phangindawo, 25, from Mossel Bay in Western Province was found hacked to death by a man wielding an axe and a spear.

And on Saturday the naked body of schoolgirl Amahle Quku, 17, of Philippi near Cape Town who had been raped and murdered was found dumped in a field by a local resident.

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