Missionaries’ rapists guilty

2008-01-25 00:00

The prosecution are seeking life sentences for three men convicted in the Pietermaritzburg High Court here yesterday of the multiple rape of two foreign missionaries on the south coast, the attempted murder of one victim, seven counts of robbery with aggravating circumstances and the illegal possession of a firearm.

All the offences were committed in a crime spree lasting several hours in the Oslo Beach area on the evening of June 30, 2006.

One of the rape victims is American and the other from Kenya.

State advocate Elsa Smith said in submissions before Judge Gregory Kruger and two assessors that minimum sentences apply in connection with all the charges: life imprisonment for the gang rape, 15 years for each of the robbery charges, and a minimum of five years’ imprisonment for attempted murder.

The accused — Siyabonga Nzimande, Wonderboy Mthembu, and Bongani Ntombela — were aged between 18 years and 21 at the time of the incident.

However, the court heard that all had previous convictions for lesser offences like possession of dagga, housebreaking and theft, and that Nzimande and Ntombela were on parole when these crimes were committed.

Their legal representatives have urged the court to have regard for their youth and the fact that they do have prospects for rehabilitation.

The judge will pass sentence today.

Earlier yesterday, Kruger rejected the versions of two of the accused — Nzimande and Mthembu — that they were forced at gunpoint to commit rape.

They claimed that a former accused, Lindelani Luthuli — whose trial has been separated from theirs — instructed them to rape the victims and threatened them with a gun. Mthembu initially testified that he was forced to rape the injured victim after Luthuli shot her for resisting, and that he feared him as a result of witnessing the shooting. However, later he claimed she was shot after he raped her.

Judge Kruger said both had ample opportunity to flee while they were not in the company of Luthuli.

He said all the assailants had been together since early that day and acted with a common purpose.

Kruger said it appeared that the story of being coerced was thought up by Nzimande after he realised that his DNA linked him to one of the victims.

He accepted the testimony of the young woman from the U.S., who said she was raped by all four assailants, but found that the state had only proved that two men raped her companion from Kenya, who was shot and who could not recall all her attackers.

Judge Kruger said that since the accused were present while all the rapes were perpetrated and made no attempt to intervene, each was also guilty of the rapes committed by their companions.

This meant all three were convicted of six counts of rape each.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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