Child predator handed six life sentences

2010-02-02 00:00

A RELIGIOUS counsellor who preyed on young boys and last week admitted to raping six boys aged from seven to 12 years in 2009,was han­ded six life sentences by Pietermaritzburg high court Judge Sharmaine Balton yesterday.

“You create a picture of a monster lurking in the guise of a religious counsellor, preying on young boys to satisfy your carnal lust,” the judge said before sentencing Michael Hlongwa (49) of Pietermaritzburg.

Hlongwa is married and has two daughters aged 11 and 16 years, the court was told.

In a statement to the court last week, he said he has a teacher’s diploma.

The court was told he was not employed at the time of the rapes and had volunteered his services to act as a counsellor at a church in Newcastle. His wife and children remained in Pietermaritzburg.

Hlongwa relied on donations to earn an income.

He has two previous convictions for similar crimes.

The judge said that because of his previous convictions, it is obvious Hlongwa is “no fallen angel”, and said his previous convictions are an aggravating factor as he had not been deterred by the earlier sentences imposed on him.

It was also aggravating that he was in a position of trust as a religious counsellor when he committed the rapes.

He had been trusted not only by his young victims, but also by their parents and by the community at large.

Balton said the crimes were premeditated and committed over a period of time. Two of the victims were raped more than once.

To avoid detection Hlongwa had paid his victims.

According to Hlongwa’s plea explanation, he had paid one victim R10 and another R5, and told them not to tell anybody what they had done.

“Thank God that your actions were stopped when you were detected and arrested,” the judge said.

She said one could only imagine what would have happened had Hlongwa not been stopped, and how many more young lives he would have destroyed.

She said it was in his favour that the boys were not physically injured, but said the court could not ignore the fact that the children would no doubt suffer psychological trauma.

Hlongwa had “ripped” their innocence from them in a selfish and cruel way, she said.

Balton said the court has a duty to send a message that this type of behaviour is unacceptable and that offenders will be severely punished.

“The court is the mouthpiece of society and, frankly, society has had quite enough of these heinous crimes committed against young children — the most vulnerable members of society,” the judge said.

She said the offences evoked a sense of shock and outrage in the community. The sexual molestation of children arouses the indignation of society and has prompted calls for measures to protect children.

Balton said society demands that men like Hlongwa be removed from society for a long time, “if not forever”.

* Hlongwa’s legal aid attorney, Kelvin Singh, brought an application for leave to appeal against the six life sentences imposed on him, but Balton refused the application, saying she does not believe another court will take a different view.

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