A monster lurking in the shadows, attacking, robbing and raping girls, was how deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath described the modus operandi of Cape Town serial rapist, 34-year-old Sikhangele Mki in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.
“It falls into the category of the most serious cases this court has ever dealt with. The crimes were heinous in the extreme.”
Goliath sentenced Mki to 15 life terms and an additional 120 years, to run concurrently.
In his plea, he admitted to raping some of his victims more than once. Nine were under the age of 16, and the youngest victim was just 11 years old.
Goliath said his modus operandi was “the signature of someone who is cruel, vicious and lacking any empathy”.
“He conducted a reign of terror over a four-year period, he exploited the vulnerability of his unsuspecting victims and derived pleasure from the degradation inflicted on them.”
Mki committed the crimes between 2011 and 2015, and his victims were attacked between the areas of Khayelitsha and Delft.
In his plea he said: “During the evenings, or early mornings, in question, I would follow the victims, grab hold of them, threaten them at knifepoint by holding a knife to their necks and would demand money and cellular phones. I would rob them of any money they had and take their cellular phones. I would take them to an isolated place and rape them, to wit, unlawfully and intentionally have nonconsensual intercourse with the victims. I have been shown photographs of places pointed out by some complainants as to where they were raped and some of these places are familiar to me.”
In some of the attacks, if his victims cried out for help or struggled, he punched or kicked them and in “isolated cases” he stabbed them in the arm and leg.
Despite taking the stand and briefly apologising to his victims, Goliath found there were no substantial or compelling reasons to deviate from minimum sentence legislation. “The aggravating circumstances are overwhelming.”
She said rape was an extremely serious offence. “It is humiliating and degrading. It is an invasion of the person’s innermost private space and an invasion of the self.”
Victim impact assessments had described the devastating physical and psychological effects on them.
Goliath said they had expressed feelings of being unable to trust men, unable to walk the streets alone and one had even attempted suicide.
One victim said the “crime broke my spirit”, another said “my life changed from happiness to bitterness” while a third victim said “it’s a pain that can never be taken away, a pain that has taken my freedom”.
Goliath said Mki would have continued his rape spree had he not been arrested for another offence.
The breakthrough in the investigation happened when Mki served eleven months for assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in 2014. In terms of the recently passed DNA Act, police collect the DNA samples of convicted offenders and run them through their system. In Mki’s case, this was what positively linked him to the rapes.
Goliath said the sentence needed to send a message to society and would-be rapists that courts were determined to protect the dignity of all women.
A police psychologist report, handed in to court for sentencing purposes, highlighted the fact that serial rapists cannot be rehabilitated. It also pointed to Mki’s predilection for young girls, stating he should also be regarded as a paedophile.
Goliath ordered his name be added to the national sex offenders register. She also ordered that he be given psychological treatment in prison and be placed in a sex offenders programme.
“The accused is a serial sexual predator. Even in the event of the remote possibility of rehabilitation, it is clear he is a danger to society, particularly women and young girls.”
The 15 life terms and additional 120 years will run concurrently.
Outside court, relatives of the victims celebrated the lengthy sentence.
Western Cape NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said it was a welcome sentence. “The accused was brazen, he even dragged one victim behind a police station.”
Ntabazalila emphasised that the case should also be seen as a lesson for communities. “Five innocent people were killed when the community decided to take justice into their own hands. Communities must let the police do the investigation, and let the courts deal with the accused.”