A young man who was in a cohabitation relationship with a minor girl has received a hefty sentence of two life terms plus 12 years imprisonment. The culprit, Thabiso Petrus Lebete (25), was found guilty on counts of statutory rape and rape by the Bloemfontein Regional Court. He was sentenced on 26 March.Lebete and the girl, now 16 years old, agreed to cohabiting and lived together as a couple from 2014 to 2016.Phaladi Shuping, the provincial spokesperson of the National Prosecution Authority, said they stayed together at the Brakfontein farm in the district of Wepener. The identity of the girl cannot be revealed because she is still under the age of 18. Shuping said Lebete was charged with statutory rape for having sexual intercourse, with the state considering the fact that the girl was still under the age of 12. The sentence of 12 years relates to a charge of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and arson. For assault grievous bodily harm, to physically abuse the girl, Lebete received five years. The charge of arson, for which he got seven years, followed the torching of a shack dwelling of the girl’s parents in Riverside, Dewetsdorp.Sgt Yanga Ngcukana, the police cluster spokesperson, said sentences will run concurrently. He said it emerged in court during the trial that ill-treatment and physical abuse occurred in the event of the relationship soured. Ngcukana said according to findings, the girl willingly lived together with Lebete in the cohabitation relationship during the period in question. Unable to tolerate the constant abuse and ill-treatment, Ngcukana said the girl apparently left the farm without the knowledge of Lebete. “The girl returned to her family at Riverside in Dewetsdorp. The accused searched for the girl until he managed to find out her whereabouts,” said Ngcukana. Apparently Lebete’s emotions reached a boiling point and he reacted angrily. “He then set alight the shack dwelling of the girl’s parents, and thereafter he fled,” said Ngcukana. Shuping said the accused was charged in terms of Section 15 of the Sexual Offence and Related Matters Act 32 of 2007. “According to this section, it is a severe criminal offence in South Africa to have sex with any child under the age of 12, consensual or not, or for any child under the age of 12 to have sex with any other person, whether consensual or not. “In section 56 of the Sexual Offences Act in South Africa, it is made perfectly clear that a marriage, friendship, or any other type of relationship do not count as consensual, hence the accused was charged for rape and statutory rape despite staying together with the complainant,” Shuping said. “In this matter it was immaterial to the prosecutor that the complainant and the accused were staying together. The most important thing was that the complainant was under the age of consent. “The Act governing the age of consent, and other related sexual matters and offences in South Africa are the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act 32 of 2007,” Shuping said.