'Rapes weren't serious', says lawyer

Benito Ben Semelane was sentenced to eight life sentences
Benito Ben Semelane was sentenced to eight life sentences
Image: 123RF/stockstudio44

A lawyer of a convicted serial rapist yesterday pleaded with the court to give his client a lenient sentence because the injuries sustained by his victims were "minimal".

Advocate Christopher Pillay pleaded with the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to deviate from prescribed maximum sentence for his convicted rapist client Benito Ben Semelane.

Acting judge Prince Manyathi found Semelane, 28, guilty on a raft of charges including eight rapes and multiple kidnappings.

He sentenced him to eight life sentences for the rape of eight women after he and his gang terrorised the communities of Katlehong, Eden Park, Zonkizizwe and Palm Ridge on the East Rand over a four-year period between 2013 and 2017.

Semelane and his gang allegedly planned their attacks by waiting for unsuspecting women commuters at taxi ranks. From there, they followed their victims with the intention to rape and rob them.

Manyathi also sentenced Semelane to a further combined 32 years imprisonment for kidnapping, assault, robbery and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition. The sentences will run concurrently.

During mitigation of sentence, Pillay said: "These were not the most serious rapes because the injuries were minimal.

"As far as physical injuries are concerned, it does not seem as though there were physical attacks aside from the rapes. I don't want to underplay the seriousness of the crimes committed because my client will need to be punished, but a lighter sentence would be appropriate considering the circumstances I have pointed out."

Manyathi pointed out to the damage Semelane and his gang caused to the lives of their victims.

"The crimes committed did not kill the victims but their self-confidence and self-worth were murdered. At no stage did he [Semelane] show remorse for the charges he was convicted for," Manyathi said.

He relayed a testimony given by a victim who was in matric when she was accosted and gang-raped by Semelane and two of his accomplices in Palm Ridge.

The victim's life was plunged into turmoil after she failed to write her examinations.

The victim was 17 years old at the time of the incident.

"The victim was returning from school with two male classmates. She was 17 years old at the time and had to start with her matric examinations. But the accused and his friends followed and pounced on the three learners, dragged them to a bush, and raped her while her classmates were present," Manyathi said.

He said the victim stormed out of the courtroom when she completed her testimony because she did not want to look at her attacker.

Manyathi also said there was a testimony made by another victim who fell pregnant after being gang-raped by Semelane and his compatriots.

"The victim had to terminate her pregnancy because it was a result of rape. The result was that her womb had to be removed because of the impact of being raped by four men. She cannot have children anymore because of the ordeal. She is still [only] 27 years old," Manyathi said.

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