UCT serial rapist Mthunzi Hlomane has been sentenced to nine life terms behind bars, but it’s a meagre victory for the six women he attacked, five of whom he raped.
It’s also little consolation to the more than 40000 women who, according to the latest police statistics, were raped in the past year in South Africa.
Five of Hlomane’s victims were students, but while Tayla Karsten, former chairperson of the health, safety and environment portfolio of UCT’s Students Representative Council (SRC), said she was “incredibly happy” that justice had caught up with Hlomane, female students weren’t about to drop their guard.
“We live in a society where women always have to be alert and wary and they continue to be so.”
She added: “He will spend the rest of his life in prison, but these women will be haunted by what happened to them for the rest of their lives.”
Hlomane, 45, was sentenced in the Western Cape High Court earlier this week.
It emerged during the court case that he would watch pornography on his cellphone featuring women with braids before stalking students who bore a resemblance to them.
He attacked six women, repeatedly raping five of them, near UCT between November 19 last year and February 4 this year.
Hlomane was found guilty of severely beating his victims with his fists, sticks or rocks forcing them to comply. One victim was choked until she passed out.
Acting Judge Mushtak Parker handed Hlomane nine life sentences when he pleaded guilty to 18 charges, which included robbery, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and rape.
UCT spokesman Elijah Moholola welcomed the news saying the institution was “pleased that a part of this devastating chapter is closed”.
Mr Moholola said the university’s thoughts remained with the survivors of the attacks.
“Many staff and students were also deeply affected by the news of each traumatic incident, and, in the time before the arrest, our community was gripped by fear. As we note the outcome of this court case, we are mindful that a number of instances of sexual violence go unpunished in South Africa, and that our society is deeply and negatively affected by this.
“Our efforts to fight the terrible scourge of sexual violence as a campus community will continue,” he said.
Provincial police spokesman Captain FC Van Wyk praised the detectives who brought the UCT serial rapist to justice.
The conviction comes in the run-up to
16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, from Friday November 25 to Saturday December 10.
“The conviction sends out a strong message that crimes against women and vulnerable victims will not be tolerated in our province and that the perpetrators will be removed from society for a long time,” said Captain Van Wyk.
South African National Parks (SANParks) spokeswoman Merle Collins said she was very pleased with the sentencing of this “despicable criminal”.
“The Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) rangers helped the police with the arrest. It took several months, as well as covert joint operations with SAPS to apprehend the perpetrator, and he is deservedly in jail; hopefully for the rest of his natural life,” she said.
Captain Van Wyk said Hlomane had been arrested in the forest below the Rhodes Memorial on Saturday March 12. DNA analysis had linked him to the rapes.
Captain Van Wyk said the crimes had been committed with escalating violence and cruelty. Hlomane had kept his victims captive forcing them to endure a drawn out ordeal.
Eric Ntabazalila regional spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the nine life terms would no run concurrently.
Hlomane had attacked his victims as they walked or jogged around the
Rhodes Memorial area.
“Most of the women in the pornography movies were women with braided hair and this made him to target them,” said Mr Ntabazalila. – Additional reporting by the Cape Argus