A Francistown serial rapist who chocked his victims before raping them was on Friday sentenced to life in prison by High Court Judge Moses Chinhengo who said he was sending a strong message to would-be rapists.
Justice Chinhengo set a landmark ruling when he sentenced Keolebogile Sixteen Sephiri to twelve years and life in prison after convicting him of two rape counts.
Chinhengo told Sephiri that the sentences were meant to protect women, punish rapists, emphasize public disapproval and send a strong message to would-be rapists that the law will deal with then sternly.
Sephiri faced two counts of rape to which he pleaded not guilty. On the first count, he is said to have lured one Qonxla Nqonxla from a drinking spot on the pretext that her husband was calling her. The victim knew Sephiri as her husband’s friend. On the way, Sephiri is said to have tripped his victim and chocked her. The victim soiled her panties, but this did not deter Sephiri who went on to rape her.
He later took her to a nearby tap where he ordered her to clean herself up and drink some water. That is when the woman escaped leaving her shoes and soiled panties at the tap to be retrieved by the police after she reported the attack.
Sephiri was later arrested with traces of the woman’s excrement still on his pants. He, however, claimed ignorance of the crime saying that the faeces stains on his pants were from his sister’s infant child.
When passing judgment Justice Chinhengo said that the offence was aggravated by the fact that Sephiri had lied to a person who was well know to him by saying that her husband was calling her. “Because of your refusal to plead guilty you also caused this woman great embarrassment and anguish as she had to narrate the events of that fateful day,” he said.
He sentenced Sephiri to twelve years in prison for the first count.
Barely three weeks after committing his first rape, was Sephiri at it again. This time his targeted victim was a 49-year-old woman who, according to her evidence, had known Sephiri since he was an infant and had seen him growing up before her very eyes.
Sephiri is said to have pounced on the unsuspecting woman just after sunset on October 29 2007. He hit her on the back of her head with a broomstick until it broke into pieces. She turned around and recognized the accused, but he immediately hit her on the eye until she collapsed.
While she was down he continued to kick and choke her until she lost consciousness. When she came to, she found herself stark naked with signs that she had been sexually molested. When she confronted him, he took out a sharp instrument and cut off her ear. It so happened that some neighbours had heard the victim crying out and asking the accused why he was attacking her.
They immediately called the police. The victim would later tell the court that it was only through the help of God that the police arrived on time as the accused was threatening to slit her throat. On seeing the police, Sephiri bolted and disappeared. The police would later tell the court that the complainant also had a bruise on her left eye and her right knee. A medical report would later reveal even more injuries including a swollen lip and a swelling on the right cheek.
Justice Chinengo told Sephiri that his offence was aggravated by the fact that the amount of force that he had applied was far over and above what one would use to rape a victim.
“The fact that you assaulted the victim until she passed out and even went as far as cutting her ear and threatening to cut off her throat shows that this rape was planned and premeditated,” he said. He also said that Sephiri seems to be a pathological rapist as in this case he raped the victim and then kept her for around thirty minutes until she gained consciousness, leaving only when the police arrived.
“Once again you have caused the victim who had known you since you were a toddler and who is old enough to be your mother, to suffer through the ordeal of giving evidence before this court,” he said.
It also emerged that the accused is not a first offender as he has once been convicted of common assault for which he was fined by the customary court.
“You raped two women who had known and lived with you for years in a space of three weeks. These cases are so aggravated that anything less that the maximum sentence would be inappropriate,” said Justice Chinhengo.
The state was represented by Thamsanqa Mdlaliso Silitshena.