The landmark 2014 judgment that sent a wealthy Mpumalanga timber tycoon, Lloyd Mabuza, to prison for eight life terms, has been upheld by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria after the court dismissed his appeal to have the conviction overturned on Thursday.
The landmark sentence was the harshest sentence ever handed down for human trafficking in South Africa and marked the culmination of a two-year long trial that highlighted the sordid side of cross-border human trafficking of underage Mozambican nationals for sexual exploitation.
Described as a sexual predator who preyed on and abused underage girls, Mabuza, 65, of White River, was found guilty on multiple counts of rape, human trafficking and sexual slavery, and sentenced in to eight life terms November 2014.
Monica Nyuswa, spokesperson for the Mpumalanga DPP, said Mabuza had noted an appeal only in respect of his conviction, and the dismissal thereof by the High Court on Thursday “means that he would serve his eight life terms in prison”.
Giving evidence in the 2014 trial, five young girls testified they had been trafficked from Mozambique to South Africa for sexual purposes in 2009.
They said they have been lured to SA under false pretences by a Mozambican woman who had promised them the opportunity of a better life and school education in South Africa.
The girls’ shocking testimonies revealed vivid descriptions of Mabuza’s bedroom and en-suite bathroom, where they said he raped them.
Should they not follow his instructions, Mabuza threatened them with a firearm. When they had refused to go to Mabuza, they were threatened with abandonment and left for days without food.
Aged between 10 and 16, they were eventually rescued in 2012 after the SAPS found the children half-starved and living in appalling conditions, locked up in a compound at a remote Rhenosterhoek lumberjack village near Sabie.
Mabuza’s co-accused, Violet Chauke, 26, a Mozambican national, was convicted of trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation and handed over to Home Affairs officials for deportation back to Mozambique.
In her defence, Chauke stated she herself was also brought to South Africa under false pretences by her sister Juliet, and that Mabuza had raped her when she was only 12.
On Friday, Victor Mafolo, head of the Mpumalanga Anti-Trafficking Task Team, lauded the efforts of Advocate Isabeet Erwee of the Mpumalanga Directorate of Public Prosecutions “for her relentless fight for justice for the young girl victims.
“She successfully prosecuted this matter in the Regional Court and argued against the appeal in the High Court. It’s the greatest victory for the innocent girls who endured untold sexual exploitation at the hands of Mabuza.
“The success of this matter was as a result of the collaborative efforts between the Prosecution (NPA), the Police, DSD, DOJ&CD, The Office Of The Attorney General in Mozambique and other key stakeholders, led by the Provincial Anti-Trafficking Task Team,” Mafolo said. – News24