The Eshowe Regional Court has sentenced Bhekani Mlaba(32) to life and eight years imprisonment for the kidnapping, assault and continued rape of a woman in the Melmoth area between May and July 2019. Pretending to be a woman, Mlaba befriended the complainant on Facebook. After speaking online for a while, the complainant confided in him, saying that she was experiencing financial problems. Mlaba told her that he would give her R10 000 to start her own business but she must travel to Melmoth to fetch the money. All their communication was on Facebook and they had never called each other as Mlaba told her that the speaker on his phone was faulty.

The complainant travelled to Melmoth and waited for Mlaba at a bus stop. He told her that he would send his nephew to meet her and bring her to the house. Unbeknown to the complainant that this was the person she was chatting to all along, Mlaba arrived and suggested they take a short cut through the forest. While in the forest he produced a knife, instructed her to undress and raped her. He then told her to decide whether to be his girlfriend or be killed. She chose to save her life and promised not to report to the police. He then took her to his relative’s homestead where he introduced her as his fiancé. They were given an isolated room and she was not allowed to go outside or communicate with anybody there. He continued to rape and grievously assault her. After some time, he took her to another homestead. On the way there he kept a knife with him and threatened to stab her if she ran or alerted anyone. At this homestead she eventually confided in a relative when they had gone down to the river to fetch water. She told the relative (first report) that she was not Mlaba’s girlfriend and that he was raping her and keeping her against her will. The first report then reported this to a male relative and the police were called. Mlaba was subsequently arrested.

In court, Regional Court Prosecutor Russell Mngoma handed in a Victim Impact Statement (VIS) compiled by the complainant and facilitated by Court Preparation Officer Amanda Nxumalo. In her statement the woman said that the incident has emotionally devasted her. She said that she doesn’t trust men and lives in constant fear. She also has difficulty sleeping at night.

Mlaba was sentenced to life imprisonment for rape, five years for kidnapping and three years for grievous assault.

The National Prosecuting Authority welcomes this successful prosecution and believes that it befits the crime. People should be cautious of meeting unknown people online. This case proves that the repercussions can be devastating.

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