State urges maximum sentence for KZN rapists

The state on Wednesday urged Judge Leona Theron to hand down the maximum sentence possible for three men found guilty of rape as none of the three men could be expected to be rehabilitated.

State prosecutor Dorian Paver argued in the Scottburgh High Court that Sithembiso Shelembe (23), Mthokozisi Mbambo (29) and Wonder Mchunu (26) should each get a life sentence for the five counts of rape of which they were each convicted on Wednesday.

The men raped three Durban 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.

Paver also demanded that the court give the three men more than the prescribed 15-year sentence for robbery with aggravating circumstances, saying: ”I need only point to the shocking record of criminality shown in respect of each of the accused.”

The court heard that each three men had previously been convicted for a number of crimes and had served time in prison. ”This catalogue of criminality means only one thing. The courts ought to be very tired of this criminality.”

He told the court that none of the three men had shown any remorse and that ”one of the abiding images of this trial is of accused number two [Mbambo] smiling” as one of the women testified to the events of her ordeal during the rape. ”One cannot overemphasise the absolute brutality of the crimes of which the accused have been convicted.”

He said that no amount of counselling would take away what had happened to the victims.

”This case, the Pennington rape case, has attracted a great deal of public interest. People attend this case because they are so revolted.”

Paver said a sentence ”must reflect society’s revulsion of this crime” and warned that if the court did not impose a heavy sentence for such crimes, communities would resort to taking the law into their own hands.

Earlier, the court heard Mbambo’s defence counsel, advocate Anneliese Harrison, urging the court to take into account that her client was ”not as involved as accused number one [Shelembe] and accused number three [Mchunu]”.

Harrison said the death of Mbambo’s father when he was 11 years old had ”dramatically” changed his life and that there was no ”direct evidence” linking Mbambo to the rapes.

However, Paver argued that Mbambo had been witnessed going ”up and down” on one of the women before stopping as she suffered an asthma attack.

Paver said Mbambo’s intent was clear, adding: ”The fact that he was HIV-positive doesn’t say much about his moral judgement.”

Mbambo, diagnosed as being HIV-positive ”as far back as 2000” according to the indictment, was acquitted of attempted murder. The indictment said Mbambo raped the women ”in spite of his knowledge of the potential transmission of a virus leading to fatal consequences”.

‘Overwhelming’ case

Delivering her judgement, 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” and the witnesses who testified for the state ”were not shown to be lying”.

”She is a brave young woman,” Theron said of one of the rape victims who had testified.

None of the victims, including the Sandton couple, can be identified.

Convicting all three of five counts of rape, Theron said there ”was common cause. All three can be convicted. Accused two [Mbambo] and three [Mchunu] made themselves party to the indecent acts perpetrated. There was no act of disassociation by any of them.”

She said Mbambo and Mchunu had ”voiced approval to the acts. They laughed and jeered. The accused were operating as a gang and they each had their role to play.”

During the trial in August, the court heard testimony from one of the three women. She said Mbambo asked her: ”Was it fun? Are we having a good time?” That was after she had been raped for a second time in less than two hours by Shelembe.

Theron rejected allegations that the police had falsely implicated the accused, saying ”there is not a shred of evidence”. She said she also believed that it was ”too much of a coincidence” that watches that Mchunu had given to his girlfriend were similar to those stolen from the victims.

She also found it too coincidental that when Shelembe and Mchunu were arrested on a minibus taxi, they were found in possession of guns that were strikingly similar to those described by the victims, especially a silver Smith and Wesson revolver.

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

The three men are due to be sentenced on Thursday. — Sapa

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