‘Our hearts are sore’

2015-05-14 10:50
Mondli Shozi and Sibongiseni Phungula crouch down to avoid being photographed as they make their way to the cells after being found guilty of murder, rape and robbery with aggravating circumstances of Ixopo nun Sister Gertrud Tiefenbacher (87) yester

Mondli Shozi and Sibongiseni Phungula crouch down to avoid being photographed as they make their way to the cells after being found guilty of murder, rape and robbery with aggravating circumstances of Ixopo nun Sister Gertrud Tiefenbacher (87) yester (Jonathan Burton)

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NUNS at Ixopo’s Sacred Heart convent say her two killer/rapists must “take their punishment” but also expressed hope that “God will touch them” in prison.

The nuns vowed to continue carrying out the work they have always done in their community, undeterred by what happened, and to “be there for the poor, sick and the young”.

Mondli Shozi and Sibongiseni ­Phungula, both aged 25 and from ­Shayamoya, were found guilty by Judge Nompumelelo Radebe yesterday of strangling Tiefenbacher with a towel and shoelaces, of robbery with aggravating circumstances and of raping her in her room at the convent on the night of April 18.

Speaking on behalf of her fellow nuns from Sacred Heart after the verdict, Sister Gerald Frye said; “We are very happy that the case has got so far so we get some closure at least.”

She refused to be drawn on what Tiefenbacher’s fellow sisters would consider a suitable sentence, saying; “We will leave that in the hands of the judge”.

“The accused need to take their punishment. At the same time our hearts are sore that young people commit crimes like this. It shows how much there is that is wrong with education and with family … We hope God touches them in prison and that they go on to become advocates for others,” said Frye.

She added that they don’t want Shozi and Phungula to simply “languish in jail for years”, but hope they will use the opportunity to turn their lives around.

“God can also touch people in prison and teach them that they can live a different life,” she added.

Radebe will hear submissions by state advocate Sandesh Sankar and defence advocate Zina Anastasiou today on what suitable sentences will be.

Anastasiou was given time yesterday to consult with Shozi and Phungula ahead of sentencing procedures, and to discuss with them the implications of a victim impact statement which she’d received from the prosecution. The statement, prepared by Sister Frye, has not yet been handed to the judge and its contents cannot be made public until the statement is before court.

Radebe earlier yesterday rejected Shozi and Phungula’s version that they only foresaw that covering Tiefenbacher’s nose and mouth could result in her death, and that she was still alive and “moving” when they left her room after raping her. The judge said Dr Yunus Bhana, who carried out the post mortem, was steadfast in his opinion that the cause of Tiefenbacher’s death was strangulation and not suffocation.

He found a towel wrapped around her neck, with shoelaces knotted around it, along with bruises on her neck and abrasions on her nostril, lips and chin.

He testified that the presence of the towel and shoelaces showed that “extra effort” was made to kill Tiefenbacher, and it was not likely she was alive when the killers left her room. Shozi and Phungula had elected not to testify in response to the doctor’s testimony.

Questions put to him by the defence to which he had agreed it was possible she could have suffocated, were based on speculation and not on the facts, said the judge.

“This court accepts the doctor’s uncontroverted evidence as reliable and accepts the cause of death was strangulation,” she said.

She said the facts also showed that, having entered the convent with the intention of stealing food, the two men were disturbed by Tiefenbacher and then inflicted violence and grievous bodily harm on her, including raping her. This made them guilty of robbery with aggravating circumstances (not merely theft) as they then went on to take her wristwatch, as well as groceries and a vacuum cleaner.

She said at all times the two men had acted with a common purpose, and said each was guilty of whatever actions the other committed

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