Guilty verdicts in Pennington rape trial

Three men accused of raping three Durban women at a Pennington beach house on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast were found guilty in the Scottburgh High Court on Wednesday.

Judge Leona Theron found Sithembiso Shelembe (23), Mthokozisi Mbambo (29) and Wonder Mchunu (26) guilty of five counts of rape. They were also found guilty of indecent assault and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

The men raped the three women at a beach house in Pennington, south of Scottburgh, on December 29 last year. Later that night, they attacked and robbed a Sandton couple.

Mbambo, who is HIV-positive, was acquitted of attempted murder. He was diagnosed as being HIV-positive ”as far back as 2000”, according to the indictment.

The indictment said Mbambo raped the women ”in spite of his knowledge of the potential transmission of a virus leading to fatal consequences”.

Theron said: ”The case presented against the accused was overwhelming. As witnesses each of the accused failed dismally. They [the accused] contradicted themselves and they were not afraid to tailor their evidence as the trial unfolded.”

She said there was evidence against the three men that ”they could not even begin to explain”.

The witnesses who testified for the state ”were not shown to be lying”.

Theron rejected allegations that the police had falsely implicated the accused, saying ”there is not a shred of evidence”.

Court was adjourned briefly when Shelembe did not want his lawyer to present any evidence in mitigation of sentencing.

Testimony

During the trial, the court heard that just days after the rape incident, Mchunu gave his 16-year-old girlfriend a watch belonging to one of the victims.

Silindile Nyathi said Mchunu gave her the watch ”in those days just after we had celebrated the New Year”, along with two cellphones and a gold necklace. The watch was identified by one of the rape victims as hers.

The court also heard that one of the victims, who was crying as one of the rapists removed her bikini pants, was told by the man to ”shut up” or he would ”blow” her head off.

The woman told the court that Mbambo ”pushed my shoulders on to the bed so that I was lying and then he tried to remove my swimming costume”.

”Then I started crying and I couldn’t breathe. Accused number one [Shelembe] came and told me to shut up. If I continued, he [Shelembe] would blow my head off. Then I just closed my eyes and tried to calm myself and then someone raped me, I didn’t look, I don’t know who, because my eyes were closed,” she said.

In other testimony, it emerged that each time one of the victims had objected to being kissed while she was being raped, her attacker pressed a Smith & Wesson revolver to her head. His accomplice then asked her: ”Was it fun? Are we having a good time?” That was after the second time she had been raped by the same man in less than two hours. — Sapa

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