THE High Court has sentenced a Berea man to 35 years in prison for raping his then 14-year-old stepdaughter in August 2019.
Judge Mabatšoeneng Hlaele found Moeketsi Ndabe guilty of the offence. However, his sentence is with effect from 8 August 2019, the date on which he was remanded in custody. He has been in custody awaiting sentencing since then. This means that he has 32 more years to serve.
Ndabe was initially charged at the Berea Magistrates’ Court but his case was moved to the High Court for sentencing because the penalty was beyond the lower court’s jurisdiction.
Ndabe is said to have raped the girl on an unspecified day in 2019. On the night in question, he had arrived home when his family had already retired to bed.
The Crown said upon arrival, Ndabe found the complainant and her four-year-old brother lying on a couch. He tried to insert his hand into her private parts, but she removed his hand.
He then ordered her to go and sleep in the bedroom where he followed and raped her. She tried to push him away, but he overpowered her, the prosecution said.
Following the rape, the complainant fled to their neighbours fearing for her safety and reported what had happened. The rape was then reported to police the following morning. She was later examined by a doctor who confirmed that she had been raped.
Ndabe had initially pleaded not guilty but changed his plea to guilty towards the end of his trial.
The Crown said it had established that Ndabe was HIV positive and he was aware of his status when he raped the victim. He has been on HIV treatment from as far back as 2013.
“When he imposed himself on the victim, he was aware that there was a possibility that he could infect the poor child but proceeded nonetheless to carry out his evil deeds. The court is therefore, convinced that accused should be sentenced under Section 32(a) (vii) of the Sexual Offences of 2003, and thus committed to the High Court for sentencing,” the court documents for the case state.
Section 31 (2) provides that where the appropriate penalty is beyond the jurisdiction of the magistrates’ court, the accused shall, after conviction, be sent to the High Court for sentencing.
Delivering judgment recently, Justice Hlaele said Ndabe had invaded his victim’s privacy and destroyed her life.
It was difficult for the court to turn a blind eye to the fact that a 14-year-old was assaulted by her stepfather whom she trusted, she said.
“The accused invaded the dignity and privacy of the complainant. The complainant’s life has henceforth been changed tremendously by the incident. It is difficult for this court to turn a blind eye to the fact that a child of 14 years was sexually assaulted by her step-father whom she trusted.
“Sexual assault and penetration without consent is a humiliating and traumatic experience which violates the dignity and privacy of the victim. The traumatic effects of sexual acts on children have been the subject matter of courts worldwide and courts sing in unison that sentencing of these sexual offenders should not be lenient, but should suit the draconic nature of the offence.
“This court has said time and time again that sexual assaults upon young children, especially by those who stand in a position of trust to them, must be severely punished. Those who engage in this evil conduct must go to jail for a long time, not only to punish them, but also in an endeavour to deter others who might have similar inclinations.”
The long-term consequences of sexual abuse on young people were now better understood by the courts than they once were, Justice Hlaele said.
“There was a shocking breach of trust. That trust emanated from the accused’s position as the complainant’s stepfather. In the medical report, the medical professional confirmed the mental and psychological impact of this sexual act by the accused on the complainant. The medical report states: ‘Victim shows signs of distress and seems to be scared of male figures due to the incident done to her. She needs psychosocial support. She is also provided with prophylaxis,” Justice Hlaele said.
She said she also considered the mitigating factors submitted by accused’s counsel and found them adequate only in so far as avoiding the death or life sentence was concerned.