When Luyanda Ngcombolo*, 28, was told to attend an identity parade and point out the two men who had raped her in a taxi, she knew that relying on her eyes would be useless.
She didn’t know what her rapists looked like. She had just knocked off one night and flagged down the taxi, not paying attention to the two people at the front.
After the other passengers had disembarked, the taxi, instead of taking her to her destination, sped off in a different direction.
In the middle of nowhere and in pitch darkness, the two men raped her at gunpoint, robbed her and pushed her, naked, out of the taxi.
A few minutes later she saw their headlights return and hid in the bushes. She heard them say they needed to find and kill her because she had recognised them.
After a while they left, and Ngcombolo came out of the bushes and started running.
Naked and shivering in the middle of winter, she ran until she found houses, refusing offers of help from strangers along the way that would require her to get into their cars as she was scared she would be raped again.
She finally got to a residential area where she was given a blanket, and the police were called.
A year later, the police told Ngcombolo they had arrested two men and would like her to attend an identity parade and identify her attackers.
She knew she would not be able to recognise them, but went anyway.
When she got there she asked the prison warder that she be allowed to smell them instead. It was an unusual request, but the warder agreed.
She was taken to where a group of men were waiting and, before going inside, she closed her eyes.
A warder took her hand to guide her.
She walked towards the first of the 10 men, leaned closer and smelt him on the chest. After smelling the 10th man, she walked backwards, smelt the ninth man again and opened her eyes.
It was one of the men who had raped her.
She closed her eyes again and kept walking backwards, smelling them until she reached the fifth.
She leaned in, smelt him again and opened her eyes. That was her second attacker.
She had positively identified them by only their smell - not perfume, sweat or soap; just their body odour.
Everyone was baffled. The judge told Ngcombolo that she had never come across a case like hers before.
A few years later, when it was her turn to testify against the two men, Ngcombolo was eight months pregnant.
Shortly after testifying, she miscarried.
The rape has affected Ngcombolo so badly that she doesn’t trust men anymore.
However, she hopes that talking about her ordeal might help other women who have been through the same thing to realise that they aren’t the only ones going through pain.
- Ngcombolo gave permission for her name to be used. - The Star