'I stabbed Thato with broken bottles'

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

Tears flowed in court 2B of the Johannesburg high court as one of the four youths accused of raping and murdering a 14-year-old Soweto schoolgirl pleaded guilty.

Themba Kenneth Mndaweni, 18, was sentenced to an effective 15 years in jail and has agreed to become a state witness against his co-accused, Stanley Masemola, 20, Mandla Mtshali, 21, and Thabiso Zweli Ganta, 21.

He was sentenced to 20 years for murder, five of which were suspended for three years. He was also sentenced to 15 years for rape. The two sentences will run concurrently.

Mndaweni had entered into a plea agreement with the state and pleaded guilty to the brutal rape and murder of Thato Radebe, a Grade 8 pupil at Bedfordview High School in Johannesburg.

Radebe's body was found in an open veld next to the Emndeni Library in Soweto on February 3 last year.

The girl's body had injuries to the face and was discovered by passers-by who alerted the police.

Liquor bottles, two used condoms and blood-splattered stones were found next to the body.

In his confession Mndaweni said he unlawfully and intentionally killed Thato.

He said in the early hours of February 3 he and his co-accused met Thato at a 24-hour shop in Soweto.

He said they asked Thato's friend to drive them to a certain place in Emndeni.

After dropping them off the friend drove away leaving Thato with the group.

They went to a tavern where they bought liquor which they, including Thato, drank.

"We dragged Thato to the ground," Mndaweni testified. "We had condoms and we put them on at that stage. I was the first to have sexual intercourse with her without her consent."

He said after he had finished Masemola raped Thato. Mtshali and Ganta followed.

"We kicked and assaulted her with open hands and pelted her with stones. Thabiso and I stabbed her with broken bottles. We also strangled her."

Masemola, Mtshali and Ganta's trial resumes today.