Mbombela - A sangoma accused of raping 21 girls at his initiation school in Mpumalanga in 2012 has been found guilty on 17 rape counts and three sexual assault charges. Johan Jabulani Mlombo, 48 was convicted when he appeared with his wife, Sister Mapalase Khoza, 41, in the Nelspruit Circuit Local Division of the Eastern Circuit District Court on Tuesday. His wife was also found guilty of two counts of common assault and one of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.The couple were faced with charges of assaulting and raping 21 girls, aged between 9 and 17, at their initiation school in Mahushu.Both accused pleaded not guilty to the rape and sexual assault charges as well as to charges of a further 19 counts of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.In his judgment, Judge JJ Strydom said Mlombo testified that as a sangoma, he assisted sick people by curing them.“You said you obtained permission from the local chief to run an initiation school, which happens yearly. You also assisted those attacked by ghosts," he said, adding that in his testimony, Mlombo had said that his actions on August 29 2012 had been intended to protect the initiates after they had seen a ghost. “You said you and accused two [Khoza] agreed to perform 'Ingoma Enkulu' [Big Initiation] to protect them. You agreed touching them, but denied putting your fingers in the vaginal organs or raping them,” said Strydom.Strydom said according to the victims, after they were ordered into the dark room, they were asked to find a grass mat and lie down, facing up. The accused then smeared muti on their bodies and then brushed their vaginas, before raping them.“Their evidence was corroborated by statements from the forensic nurses who examined them, after finding injuries on their private parts... When asked why they had injuries on their private parts, [Mlombo] could not answer,” he said.The judge said Mlombo approached one of the girls while they were bathing in a river and told her she was "nice" so he would "do it again on Friday".Strydom said while Mlombo had denied saying that - saying instead that he had only approached the river to warn the girls to stay away from boys - the State had proved beyond reasonable doubt that Mlombo was guilty. The case was postponed to October 1 for sentencing to allow for psychiatric reports on the victims to be completed.