/ 28 March 2024

KZN South Coast water cuts delay serial rapist’s case, again

Whatsapp Image 2024 03 28 At 17.08.34
Sakhile Bhekisisa Mhlungu, 46, makes his way to the court holding cells.

KwaZulu-Natal’s water woes have again led to a delay in justice being served after the sentencing of a South Coast serial rapist, who drove around in his bakkie kidnapping teenage girls at gunpoint, was postponed in the Scottburgh regional court on Thursday.

This is the second time that the sentencing of Sakhile Bhekisisa Mhlungu, 46, has been postponed because of water cuts in Scottburgh, the first having been on 19 March, when it was held up by just under a week.

Mhlungu was found guilty of 19 charges including rape, kidnapping, robbery and discharging a firearm. He pleaded guilty to all charges earlier this month, which he committed from April 2019 to March 2022, after police collected DNA evidence linking him to the rapes.

Magistrate Asheena Bacharam was expected to hand down sentencing on Thursday after extensive arguments in aggravation and mitigation of sentencing took place in court on Monday.

But the state prosecutor, Lindokhule Gumede, asked the court to postpone the matter because there was no water in the building.

Bacharam said she was aware that the condition in the holding cells was not good because the water has been cut since the morning.

Mhlungu’s attorney, Leslie Pillay, said he had hoped that sentencing would have been handed down and the matter finalised as it had already been postponed previously, but he did not object to the prosecution’s request.

Bacharan postponed sentencing to Thursday, 4 April.

When Mhlungu took the stand to testify in mitigation of sentencing on Monday he told the court that he did not know what had motivated him to commit the crimes and that he was not sure whether Satan had possessed him.

Pillay argued that Mhlungu had pleaded guilty and not burdened the state with the task of proving the case against him, and that he is the sole breadwinner in his family, which includes three minor children and two unemployed adult children.

State prosecutor Active Njakazi had argued in aggravation of sentencing that the effect of rape on the victims was “severe and permanent”, three of the victims were minors, and that the accused had only pleaded guilty because he had been arrested and realised he would not be acquitted because of the DNA evidence. He urged the court to impose the minimum sentence of life imprisonment.

Several South Coast towns, including Scottburgh and parts of Umkomaas and Amanzimtoti, experienced water cuts on Thursday ahead of the Easter long weekend as tourists flocked to the province for the holidays.