The Lusikisiki Regional Court sentenced four rapists to life imprisonment terms in three different cases. Nathi Chithelo (32) and Athenkosi Gcambaza (25), were sentenced for raping an 18-year-old woman, while Avela Somhlahlo (30) and Thobela Khulani (35), were respectively sentenced for raping a three-year-old boy and a mentally ill woman.

On 15 January 2023, the teenage victim was walking home from Makukhanye High School, in the KwaNyathi area in the district of Lusikisiki, when she was accosted by Chithelo and Gcambaza, was unknown to her. They threatened her with a knife and instructed her to follow them to a house that was still under construction. They then took turns raping her before fleeing. After her ordeal, the victim alerted the first person she met on her way, and the community was mobilised leading to the apprehension of the two within the vicinity and they were handed over to the police. During the trial, they pleaded not guilty with Chithelo claiming that the victim was his girlfriend, and his accomplice saying the victim consented to a “threesome”.

Somhlahlo pleaded guilty to raping his toddler nephew when his sister, the mother of the victim, was away on 08 September 2021 at the home they shared in the Ngobozana Area, in the district of Lusikisiki. He admitted that he promised to buy the victim sweets and lured him to his room where he anally penetrated him. He was arrested after the victim reported to his mother who took him to St Elizabeth Hospital Thuthuzela Care Centre (TCC). The victim was badly injured, so much so that he uses an artificial instrument to relieve himself.

Khulani also entered a plea of guilty following his linking through DNA to the crime of raping a mentally ill and mute woman on 28 July 2021 in Mantlaneni Area, also in the district of Lusikisiki. He was arrested after the woman showed her mother what had happened to her by pointing to her private part. The mother immediately went to open a case and she was taken to the St Elizabeth TCC where DNA swabs were taken. The victim was later able to point out Khulani after the community had rounded all men in the village and conducted their impromptu identity parade.

In all the cases, Regional Court Magistrate Zanekhaya Gxarisa agreed with Acting Regional Court prosecutor Justice Tsala’s submissions that there were no compelling circumstances for a deviation from the prescribed minimum sentence of life imprisonment.

Eastern Cape Director of Public Prosecutions, Barry Madolo, commended the prosecutor, the TCC staff and the investigating officers, adding that the sentences were a clear indication that the NPA’s strategies targeted at Lusikisiki, dubbed the “rape capital of South Africa”, were bearing the desired fruits.

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