‘Their souls are damaged’

2017-04-02 07:44
Thabo Nkala, Edmor Ndlovu and Mduduzi Mathibela were sent to prison for life for the shocking Rhodes Park murders and rapes in October 2015. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

Thabo Nkala, Edmor Ndlovu and Mduduzi Mathibela were sent to prison for life for the shocking Rhodes Park murders and rapes in October 2015. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

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The words “life sentence” pronounced by Judge Papi Masopa sounded like music to the ears of the two young widows and the packed public gallery in the Johannesburg High Court on Friday.

“Praise the Lord, thank you, Lord,” screamed Siphokazi Tyeke with her hands in the air when Masopa sentenced the three men convicted earlier this week for killing her husband and his friend in Rhodes Park in Johannesburg in October 2015.

The two women were also raped.

The second widow and rape victim, Jabu Mbatha, also jumped up waving her hands in the air before bursting into tears.

She cried uncontrollably in the comforting arms of Gauteng community safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, who repeatedly assured her: “It’s over now, it’s over now...”

The words “life sentence” were repeated during the sentencing of the three men, who were found guilty on two counts of rape, two counts of murder and one of robbery.

Each of them left the courtroom with four life sentences plus 15 years for robbery to the sound of echoing cheers and ululations from the jubilant crowd.

Masopa ordered for the sentences to run concurrently.

Tyeke said she was happy with the sentences. She said she had also forgiven the men who killed her husband and raped her.

“I’m quite relieved. I have forgiven them because God forgives those who forgive others ... I must also try to forget them and focus on my recovery now. It’s not going to be easy to forget what has happened, though,” Tyeke said.

A blissful day for two young couples was shattered and the two women’s lives changed forever on October 17 2015.

While taking a walk at Rhodes Park in Kensington, they were accosted by a group of men who threatened them with a gun and a knife.

“Our day began with a church service. Our husbands had decided to abandon our initial plan to go for a walk at the park to watch rugby instead.

"[But] we insisted that we go for a walk, not knowing that we would later return home without them,” said Tyeke after her husband’s killers had been sentenced.

The two women had to watch their helpless husbands – Sizwe Tyeke and Zukisa Khela – be forced to strip naked and have their hands tied behind their backs before being forced into the dam at the park.

While their husbands drowned, the gang then tormented the two women and raped them.

“I still hear the men’s voices"

During sentencing on Friday, Masopa reminded the court how it emerged during testimony that some of the gang members wanted the women drowned as well, but this plan was abandoned at the insistence of one of the criminals.

He said the men were laughing at Sizwe Tyeke and Khela as they drowned and continued to laugh at the two women as they walked away after they had raped them.

Only three members of the 12-man gang – Thabo Nkala, 26, Edmore Ndlovu, 24, and Mduduzi Mathibela, 33, – were arrested and had been awaiting trial from behind bars since 2015.

Crestfallen and visibly upset, the trio was made to stand up one at a time as Masopa read their sentences.

Masopa said the three men failed to show remorse throughout the trial for treating their victims in a “mean and callous manner”.

As the three men were led to the holding cells to begin their sentences and swap their civilian clothes for orange prison uniforms, the two women were left with a tough task ahead: to rebuild their shattered lives.

“I miss my husband and it hurts the most when I see something we used to do together. I enjoy comedy and he used to call me to share things that he thought would make me laugh ... but I feel like, wherever he is, he wants me to be happy,” Tyeke said.

Mbatha said the sentences may have brought some closure, but “my life is not going to be the same”.

“I still hear the men’s voices. My life has been totally disturbed,” she said.

The court heard in aggravation of sentence this week that the two women had each tried to commit suicide at least once owing to the trauma they had endured.

Trauma specialist Malose Langa told the court that it would take a miracle for the two women to recover from their ordeal and from their losses.

“In my opinion, they will never recover ... their symptoms [of post-traumatic stress disorder] are severe.

“It is unfortunate that [their] memories will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They look fine outside, but their souls are damaged,” Langa said.

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