A South African court on Tuesday convicted a man guilty of 90 charges of rape, some of which involved children as young as nine, in a case that rocked the country. The court in Palm Ridge, close to Johannesburg, heard testimony about how Nkosinathi Phakathi, 38, preyed upon schoolgirls and made them watch him commit rapes over the course of a nine-year terror campaign.
The National Prosecuting Authority’s Lumka Mahanjana stated in a statement that the perpetrator ‘targeted his victims when they were going to or coming from school or work in the morning or evening… he attacked some in their own house’. In some cases, while raping more than one person at once, he had the other one watch. ‘He would pretend to be an electrician coming to fix a geyser or other domestic appliances and rape them,’ he said.
The majority of his victims were children, the youngest just nine, the oldest 44, the NPA said. Phakathi committed his crimes in or around Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg, between 2012 and 2021. He was arrested in March last year, after attempting to go back to one of his victim’s homes, the authority said. Police reportedly shot him in a leg, which has since been amputated.
Phakathi, who last week entered a guilty plea to 148 crimes, sat with his head slouched between his forearms resting on a pair of crutches on Tuesday as the judge read the lengthy number of allegations. He was dressed in a grey sweatshirt. He was later found guilty of 90 instances of rape, four charges of forced rape, three counts of forcing or inducing a minor to observe a sexual conduct, 43 counts of kidnapping, two acts of assault, and four counts of theft. Early December is the date set for sentencing.
The state plans to persuade the court to impose a term that would leave a clear message that offences involving gender-based violence will not be allowed, according to Mahanjana. The ruling comes a week after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared gender-based violence to be the biggest ‘pandemic’ afflicting the nation, claiming that there were consistently new reports of ‘horrendous’ assaults.
According to Ramaphosa, police statistics reveal that between 2017–18 and 2021–2022, rapes and sexual offences increased by 13%, while killings of women increased by 52% in the first three months of this year compared to the same time in 2017. Some proponents of women’s rights claim that the government isn’t doing enough to stop violence against women.