'We proceeded to rape her without mercy'

Siyabonga Africa

Siyabonga Africa

"The girl begged us not to rape her ... and yet we all proceeded to rape her without mercy."

That was the testimony 24-year-old Michael Andile Plata, who took part in the brutal gang-rape of Disebo Mokhele on July 22 in 2005, gave to the Free State regional court in Virginia.

This statement came out in a trial that began in September 2005 and culminated in a landmark sentence in the province.

Magistrate Thiloshini Ramedeyal slapped Plata with a life sentence on Monday for his part in the gang rape.

Plata, who was 21 at the time of the rape, testified that he and three friends had spotted Mokhele, 22, and her boyfriend waiting for a taxi in Welkom at about 10pm on July 22 2005.

"We chased the boyfriend away," Plata said. "Then we dragged the girl to a field and raped her repeatedly."

According to a statement released yesterday two men on stopped Inspector Jaco Heyns of the Thabong crime prevention unit on September 13 2005 and informed him that they knew the people who had raped Mokhele.

They led Heyns to a house where two of the suspects were arrested.

The other two were arrested at a nearby shebeen.

The statement also said that Mokhele identified Plata during an identity parade.

Plata was also linked to the rape through DNA evidence. There was apparently no DNA link to the others.

Mokhele was described as weak and frail during the trial, though she looked older than her 22-years.

"Mokhele cried profusely when she testified," said interpreter Meachal Reed. "She said her life had been ruined."

Mokhele and her mother also testified that she had become distant and distracted after the rape. She had also contracted HIV.

Ramedeyal said that rapists kill a woman's self-respect and her feelings of physical and mental integrity and security.

"This monstrous deed often haunts the victim and subjects her to mental torment for the rest of her life - a fate often worse than the loss of life," Ramedeyal said.

When sentence was pronounced, Plata sat down and had to be helped down the stairs to the cells. He was immediately transferred to a maximum correctional facility in Virginia.