Durban - Four men have received hefty prison terms for the gang rape of an Umhlali woman.
But Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Isaac Madondo yesterday stopped short of giving the men life sentences because they were all first offenders, relatively young, gainfully employed and therefore capable of rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
They had also spared their victim’s life and had not stabbed her.
The woman is still having nightmares about the attack and is worried that a test might find her HIV positive.
The four men, Sibusiso Xulu, 21, Sifiso Bomboto, 25, Mzuyanda Cawe, 22, and Sivuyile Mohaphetshu, 28, all from Shakashead, pleaded guilty to the rape and the robbery of the woman and her fiancé on the evening of September 22.
The couple, who live in the Thembeni area, were standing under the Umhlali Bridge at about 6.30pm, waiting for transport to go home, when the four noticed them carrying grocery bags and decided to rob them.
The men told Judge Madondo they had been drinking beer at a braai before taking a walk along the N2 highway when they spotted the couple and “on the spur of the moment”, decided to rob them.
The men admitted to assaulting the couple and robbing them at knifepoint of their groceries, cellphones, cash and the woman’s gold engagement ring.
Her fiancé managed to escape to summon help.
While he was gone, Bomboto, Cawe and Mohaphetshu took turns raping the woman, while Xulu kept watch.
They dragged the woman, 40, into bushes on the side of the N2 near the bridge, and raped her.
When the men heard police sirens approaching, they fled.
The woman suffered genital scarring and soft tissue injury to her leg after being kicked by one of her attackers.
In a victim impact statement to the court, the woman said the rape had exposed her to the HI virus. If it was found that she was HIV positive, she “won’t be able to handle it”.
The woman said that she was now on the verge of losing her fiancé, who shows no interest in her following the rape.
“I still dream about that night. I’m attending ongoing trauma counselling at Stanger Hospital,” the woman said.
She has also had to take several days off work to recover, but was then suspended without pay and is now a financial burden to her family.
Judge Madondo said rape was a serious and prevalent offence and a cowardly, perverse act that violates the integrity and dignity of the woman.
“Rape is a monstrous deed that haunts the victim and subjects her to mental torment for the rest of her life,” he said.
The men had behaved like “brute animals”, but it counted in their favour that they had not inflicted injury on the woman with their knives and spared her life, the judge said.
Bomboto, Cawe and Mohaphetshu were sentenced to an effective 20 years for the robbery and rape, while Xulu was sentenced to an effective 15 years because he had not actively participated in the rape, but was also guilty because he was present and had kept lookout.