Rapists get 44 years’ jail

2008-01-27 00:00

Three young rapists and armed robbers convicted of a crime spree and the gang rape of two foreign missionaries at Oslo Beach on June 30, 2006, were each sentenced to an effective 44 years in prison yesterday.

Judge Gregory Kruger ordered that the three — Siyabonga Nzimande (19 at the time), Wonderboy Mthembu (18) and Bongani Ntombela (20) — must serve at least 25 years before they can be considered for release on parole.

Kruger earlier said state advocate Elsa Smith rightly called for the imposition of minimum prescribed sentences, including life imprisonment for the gang rapes, but said that in his view there were compelling and substantial circumstances that justified a lesser term in that regard.

Legal sources said later that the effect of the total sentences imposed is equivalent to the time the accused would have been required to serve had they been sentenced to life terms.

Taking into account the nature of the crimes the trio committed, Judge Kruger said the evidence clearly shows that the victims of the robberies — with aggravating circumstances — and the rapes were defenceless.

Although items stolen in the course of the robberies (such as cellphones) might appear to be trivial, they no doubt were of importance to the victims.

One of the robbery victims who testified is clearly still "terrified", he said.

The judge said rape is a degrading, dehumanising, humiliating and cowardly act.

In this case the trio and their accomplice not only deprived the victims of their virginity, but also their dignity. "The accused showed no respect for them whatsoever."

The victims were a Kenyan and an American. One was menstruating and was shot and seriously wounded before being raped.

The judge said the impact of the ordeal was evident from the missionaries’ testimony. One said the ordeal had left her feeling "sad and degraded". Both women are still receiving psychiatric treatment.

The woman who was shot is still on medication as the bullet remains lodged in her lung.

Referring to the contents of a victim impact statement submitted to the court, Judge Kruger said the ordeal caused the two women to question their faith.

The American said she kept on asking herself during the incident how God could allow this to happen when she was on a mission.

"There is no doubt that society demands that people convicted of such violent and heinous crimes must be imprisoned for lengthy periods."

The judge took into account submissions by defence lawyers regarding the youth of the accused and the fact that they are capable of rehabilitation. He cited decisions by other courts in similar cases.

Judge Kruger refused applications for leave to appeal against conviction lodged by Nzimande and Mthembu.

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