Rapist says he's sorry
After spending more than a decade in prison for rape, a former gangster has mellowed and apologised to his victim for his crime.
Ngoako Phakane 31, of Ivory Park in Ekurhuleni, was released seven months ago from Johannesburg Central Prison after serving 12 years of a 30-year jail sentence.
Scars and prison tattoos are a dead giveaway that Phakane spent a considerable time behind bars.
Whether it was peer pressure, a fear for his life or just plain stupidity, Phakane's actions landed him in prison.
While guns, expensive clothes and alcohol used to embody who Phakane was, these days he sports a ZCC badge.
He was jailed after he participated in the gang-rape of two women. Phakane says he raped only one of the women.
After his release Phakane apologised to the woman, who lives in Alexandra in northern Johannesburg. The second woman and her boyfriend have since died.
In prison Phakane was a member of Fear Free for Life, a nonprofit organisation started at the Kutama Private Prison in Limpopo in 2004.
It is active in the Johannesburg and Leeuwkop prisons. It dissuades young people from engaging in criminal activity and focuses mainly on crime and gangsterism.
Phakane says he was a "very dangerous" criminal, whose family wanted nothing to do with him.
"I would not listen to my mother and went to stay in Alexandra. I associated with the wrong people and quickly gained a reputation as a dangerous criminal," Phakane says.
It was during his stay in Alexandra that Phakane, who went by the street name MaRazor, met the woman he raped.
"I was living in a house with two girls and their boyfriends. We all got along with one another and they became my family since I had none at the time," he says.
"My crew had shot and killed a police officer. They took his service pistol, which I managed to get hold of. After a while, they wanted the gun back but I didn't return it.
"They must have thought I was trying to keep the gun for myself and came looking for me - not just to take the gun back, but to kill me."
He continues: "I was a DJ in Alexandra and one night, all five (gang members) came looking for me. They were very drunk and when they arrived at the club they somehow decided not to kill me. I ended up buying them booze.
"One of them was very drunk and we decided to take him to my place to sleep. That's when the rape took place.
"I had gone outside to the toilet when I heard a gunshot. I ran back inside and found the gang members pointing a gun at the girls and their boyfriends.
"They assaulted the men and locked them up in a wardrobe and kidnapped the women," he says.
They took the women to another house where they took turns raping them.
"What I did was wrong because I had a choice not to take part in the rape. But I knew if I didn't join in, they would have shot me thinking I was going to rat on them," Phakane says.
Asked how he feels about raping someone he knew, Phakane says: "It was horrible because I remember her crying. She even said to me 'how could you do such a thing to me'?
"But I wanted to be seen as a tough guy who was down with his clique."
But Phakane's life was still in danger.
Days after the rape the gang came looking for him and a shootout ensued.
"I was hit in the leg and had to be taken to hospital. I was arrested shortly afterwards," he says.
Even in prison his life was on the line.
"I'm not sure what happened with the other guys, but only three of us were arrested. One of my co-accused was still angry with me and tried to kill me through his prison gang," Phakane says.
Though prison life was difficult, Phakane says having to face the woman was even more daunting.
"I was never truly going to find inner peace until I had faced her and apologised. So I went to Alexandra and I ran into her boyfriend's brother. Only her boyfriend came face to face with me and and told me he had planned to kill me for what I did."
Weeks later he finally met the woman and apologised.
She accepted his apology but has indicated that she is still too traumatised by the rape 12 years ago to speak about it with Sowetan.
Phakane says: "I am now involved with Khulisa (another anti-crime NGO) with the aim of helping young people to steer clear of drugs and crime.
"I am trying to rebuild my life and I know I will succeed. I have started a small business where I run public phones. I also sell kotas (bunny chows)."