Child rapist avoids life term

2007-12-13 00:00

A high court judge in Pietermaritzburg yesterday imposed a sentence of 18 years’ imprisonment, of which six years are conditionally suspended, on a man who raped an 11-year-old girl in Inanda on a number of occasions during December 2003.

The rapist, Hamilton Mbele, who was 35 at the time, had been taken into the family by the child’s grandmother, who employed him to do building work.

The court heard that a month after the rape, Mbele tested positive for HIV.

Judge King Ndlovu said after considering the aggravating and mitigating features of the case, he found that cumulatively there were compelling and substantial circumstances that justified the court imposing less than the minimum life imprisonment for the rape of a child. Some of the factors were that despite his relatively advanced age, this was Mbele’s “first brush with the law”; that he has already served three years and two days in jail since his arrest; and the fact that — while not minimising the seriousness of the crime — the rape was not of the “extreme gruesome” type that sometimes comes before the courts, the judge found.

He said there was no indication that the girl was injured, apart from tears to her genitalia, which had healed by the time she was medically examined. He accepted, however, that there is a likelihood the girl will suffer psychological trauma for most “if not her entire life”.

She testified that she did not report the rapes because she was threatened by Mbele.

The case came to light six months after the rapes occurred, and only because the accused himself made allegations to the grandmother that the child was “having an affair” with the boy next door, the judge said.

The judge said he agreed with submissions by state advocate Gary Williams that although the court could not find that Mbele was aware of his HIV status when he raped the child, he clearly ran a real risk through his conduct of both contracting and spreading the virus. This was not in his favour.

Childline director Linda Naidoo told The Witness that she hopes the state will appeal for an increase in the sentence.

“The minimum sentence of life imprisonment for child rape is there for a reason. I don’t think it should be a question of opinion. In this case the child was raped on more than one occasion, she was threatened and manipulated and will suffer psychological trauma.”

Naidoo said it is extremely psychologically destructive for children to suffer rape, especially when they are violated by a person who isknown to them and whom they trust.

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