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35-year-old man sentenced to life for raping 2-year-old girl
A 35-year-old Congolese man and father of four was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Johannesburg Magistrates Court on Friday morning for the rape of a two-year-old girl in 2016.
Selemani Mugalu Koma, who came to South Africa in 2015 after fleeing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was arrested on January 28 2016 in Bertrams, east of the Johannesburg central business district, and charged.
On May 18 2017, he pleaded guilty to the rape charge when the semen collected from the victim was confirmed as his. During proceedings he had interjected to ask if the child was “a virgin or not”.
The prosecutor said the state sought a life sentence for the accused because he showed no remorse for his crime and therefore did not deserve to be a member of society. “The victim was only two years old at the time,” she said.
“There was no one there to defend the child. She was vulnerable and did not know what was happening, therefore, the accused deserves a harsh sentence,” the state argued.
It is alleged that although the victim and the accused are not related, the victim’s family trusted Koma. The defence requested the court to deviate from a harsh sentence, citing that Koma, a first offender, showed remorse for his actions by pleading guilty and that he was a family man and a father of four children.
Magistrate Vincent Ratshibvumo said although the defence had produced reasons for why the accused should not receive a harsh sentence, “the court needs to measure the nature of the crime and the interest of society”.
He said he did not believe the accused showed remorse as he only pleaded guilty when he realised that the evidence against him was too strong. In addition, Koma showed a sense of selfishness in court when instead of asking about the child’s injuries, “he asked if she was a virgin”.
This, according to the magistrate, was a question that the court deemed disgusting and immoral. Ratshibvumo asked if Koma believed that by sleeping with an infant he would be cured of a certain disease.
“If that is the case I will not be surprised because it was declared that the accused is suffering from an undisclosed chronic illness,” he quipped.
“I cannot find any justifiable circumstances that suggest that the court should deviate from the prescribed sentence of life imprisonment.”
He said Koma did not display any elements of fatherhood when he committed the crime. “I cannot imagine how a 35-year-old man can unzip his pants and start penetrating a two-year-old child,” he said.
However, the magistrate showed compassion towards Koma before sending him down to the holding cells saying: “I take no pleasure in sentencing you, especially when the law prescribes the sentence I have to impose. Every time I impose a sentence and take a member of society away, it saddens me but the law needs to take its course.”
The accused wept as the magistrate delivered the verdict. He was told he had the right to speak to his lawyer if he wished to appeal his life sentence at the high court. Family members of both the accused and the victim were not present in court.