Suicide watch for taxi rapes accused

Lebogang Gift Mokoena pleaded guilty to a plethora of charges including rape and kidnapping.
Lebogang Gift Mokoena pleaded guilty to a plethora of charges including rape and kidnapping.
Image: Tankiso Makhetha

A taxi driver who pleaded guilty to charges of rape and kidnapping of several women in Gauteng will be put on a suicide watch after threatening to kill himself in prison.

Lebogang Gift Mokoena, 28, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of rape, nine of kidnapping, nine of robbery, nine of pointing an object that resembles a firearm and one of sexual assault.

Mokoena was part of a duo that targeted female taxi commuters in a spate of taxi rapes, kidnappings and robberies across various areas of Gauteng.

His 30-year-old co-accused is expected to appear in the South Gauteng High Court on Friday after their trials were separated.

Their reign of terror lasted for 13 months before they were nabbed.

But after his confessions to the heinous crimes he committed during a 13-month reign of terror, Mokoena told officials he wanted his matter concluded as soon as possible in order for him to end his life.

He is being held in Johannesburg prison. Spokesperson for the department of correctional services Singabakho Nxumalo told Sowetan that Mokoena would be put on a suicide watch after being sentenced.

"He will have to undergo an admission process that will include medical and psychiatric assessments.

"In an event where officials detect that he is suicidal, he will be allocated a cell where his movements can be monitored and where he will be provided with psychiatric services," Nxumalo said.

Mokoena, in a surprising move, changed his plea on three occasions.

He initially pleaded guilty to 46 of 51 charges, before backtracking and pleading not guilty to five of the charges.

Prosecutor Rolene Bester said the fifth charge of assault against him would not be pursued.

Mokoena's lawyer, advocate Sabelo Nobangule, told the court he was not coerced when he made the plea, and that his client was confused when he pleaded not guilty. "My client indicated to me during consultations the charges were many and he gets confused," Nobangule said.

Judge Cassim Moosa postponed the matter until today.

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