The mother of four-year-old Iyapha Yamile collapsed, sobbing hysterically, after her child’s murderer was sentenced to life behind bars in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.
Khayelitsha community members surrounded her and sang gospel songs as Odwa Nkololo, 30, was led out of the packed courtroom.
Acting Judge Dianne Davis imposed minimum sentencing legislation and handed down three life sentences which will run concurrently. Nkololo was convicted of the April 2017 rape and murder of Iyapha. He was also convicted of raping the seven-year-old daughter of his girlfriend less than six weeks before that.
Iyapha was reported missing on April 30, 2017, after visiting her aunt.
The next day the child’s body was discovered near her aunt’s house, stuffed in refuse bags. Nkololo was arrested in July after the outraged community burnt down the homes of several innocent people. They also burnt down Nkololo’s home.
“He is an outcast of the community and no family came to support him during the trial,” acting Judge Davis said.
She said Nkololo had not testified in mitigation of sentence, but his counsel had made submissions on his behalf. These included the facts that he was unmarried, has two young children, and one previous theft conviction from 2014.
However, he had no history of violence and stood “as a first offender for the purposes of this case”.
Davis said he had not shown any remorse for his crimes and had taken no responsibility. “He does not spare a thought for Iyapha’s family who must bear the ongoing grief of their loss.”
She said that while rape is always an appalling act, the rape of a child under the age of 16 is viewed in a “particularly serious light”. In this case, “we are dealing with the murder of a four-year-old child, committed during or after the rape”.
Davis said the medical evidence showed that the child had sustained vaginal injuries and was strangled. “She would have suffered great pain and fear before she died.”
Nkololo had been living with his girlfriend and had also raped the child who looked up to him as a “stepfather” figure. “He took advantage when his girlfriend was absent.”
“He raped two minor children in a period of less than six weeks. He must be removed from the community in the interests of children’s safety.”
She said parents should not have to fear that their children could fall victim to predators while they play in the streets.
She said courts need to take into account the feelings of the community on issues like this. “The incidents of child rape are disturbingly high. A clear message must be sent that it will be met with the full force of the law.”
Davis said she could not justify a deviation from minimum sentence legislation as there had been no mitigating factors at all.
Addressing the community directly, she congratulated them and said “without your great help to police justice would not have been done. I encourage you to always participate in this way with police”, saying it was the “best way” rather than taking the law into their own hands. She also commended the police for their “innovative work” on the case.