Johan Jabulani Mlombo, a sangoma convicted of raping 17 girls at his initiation school in Mpumalanga has been handed 17 life sentences for rape – an effective 425 years in prison.
Additionally, he has been sentenced to five years each on three counts of sexual violation.
Johan Jabulani Mlombo, 50, was sentenced when he appeared with his wife Sister Mapalase Khoza, 52, in the Nelspruit Circuit Local Division of the Eastern Circuit District Court on Friday.
The girls, aged between nine and 17, were raped at their initiation school in Mahushu, on August 29, 2012.
When passing sentence Judge JJ Strydom said during the initiation process, the parents had trusted Mlombo and his wife would give the girls values and teach them about the law.
“The parents knew when a child had been admitted, she could not be fetched as there was a belief they would go mad. The children were also not allowed to tell anyone what had been happening at the school. It should all have been kept a secret,” he said.
Strydom said Mlombo, however, saw this as an opportunity to rape the girls, saying it was part of the ingoma enkhulu (big initiation).
“He knew this blanket of secrecy would conceal his selfish sexual desires. On August 29 2012, on the day of the big initiation, he and Khoza called the initiates into the dark room, where for almost two hours, all the girls were sexually violated.
“Khoza also assaulted three of the girls by using a stick called liswati lengoma (initiation stick). One of the girls sustained severe injuries, which left scars on her body. This was not supposed to be the situation,” the judge said.
Strydom said, according to the victims’ impact reports compiled by three social workers, all the girls were experiencing similar problems.
“They lost their virginity; are victimised at schools and no longer feel safe. Some even went for counselling. Eight of the victims were penetrated by finger and the rest with a penis. There is no distinction between an object, finger or penis. Rape is rape and regarded as a most serious offence,” he said.
The judge said defense advocate Albertos le Roux’s mitigating factor that Mlombo found himself in a society where customs and rituals played a role, held no water.
“The accused did not satisfy the court as far as the rapes were concerned. He also violated three other victims by playing with their breasts and private parts,” he said.
“There is no deviation from the prescribed sentencing and you are sentenced to 17 lives and five years each on the three counts of sexual violation,” Justice Strydom said, meaning Mlombo would serve all his life sentences consecutively.
His wife Khoza was found guilty on two counts of assault and one assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. She was sentenced separately to three years, suspended for three years, and 18 years, suspended for three years.