45 years for child killer who blamed devil

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IOL pic jun17 prison bars worn AFP File picture

Durban - Aphile Zungu “loved” her mother’s boyfriend, but he raped the 2-year-old, stabbed her in the neck 25 times and then threw her lifeless body down a pit latrine.

Durban Regional Court magistrate Anand Maharaj said on Monday that he could not believe what he was hearing when he listened to the gruesome details of Francis Mandlenkosi Gumede’s guilty plea. Maharaj sentenced Gumede, 34, to an effective 45 years in jail – life imprisonment (25 years) for rape and 20 years for murder.

“Your conduct was nothing short of inhuman. You have no feelings, sympathy or respect for life,” he told Gumede, who appeared unmoved.

Gumede said in his guilty plea that he had been drinking with his sister on July 4 and that when she had left to buy more beer, “the devil came” and this led to him going to his bedroom and raping the little girl.

When she started screaming he tried strangling her. When she stopped screaming but continued struggling, he went to his kitchen, fetched a knife and stabbed her 25 times.

Gumede said his girlfriend, the girl’s mother, Nokuthula Zungu, had often left her daughter in his care. He claimed the mother would not come home on some nights, leaving the child with him.

He had learnt that Zungu was cheating on him and while her conduct had hurt him deeply, he had no problem with the child, he said. “I loved the child and she loved me.”

On July 4, he took Aphile with him to his home in Mariannhill. She played with the neighbour’s children while he drank with his sister. “The child came to me saying she wanted to sleep. I took her to my bedroom and left her there sleeping,” he said in his plea statement.

He continued to drink until they ran out of alcohol and his sister left to buy more.

“The devil came to me while my sister was out. I went to my bedroom,” he said.

He described how he raped Aphile and how she started crying and struggling.

After stabbing her “until she stopped breathing”, he wrapped her in his blanket and pushed her down the hole of an old toilet. When his sister returned they continued drinking. It was only when his other sister asked about the blood on his trousers that he confessed to killing Aphile.

When both his sisters went to the toilet to look for Aphile, Gumede fled.

He told the court he had tried killing himself twice – he tried drowning himself at a Scottburgh beach and, when this failed, he swallowed broken pieces of glass while sleeping on the streets of South Beach in Durban.

Gumede was arrested on July 22 by Mariannhill Detective/Warrant Officers Michael Phili and Bheki Khwela and Warrant Officer Rajen Govender of the SAPS provincial task team.

Gumede’s Legal Aid attorney, Thobile Sigcau, told the court Gumede regretted his actions and had apologised to Zungu, asking for her forgiveness.

She did not accept his apology.

Sigcau said Gumede did not have a reason for killing Aphile, but knew what he was doing was wrong.

Zungu testified during arguments for sentencing and said her daughter was not always left in Gumede’s care. She said that on July 4, Gumede had visited her at her rented room in Dassenhoek and he had agreed to help, as the woman who usually looked after Aphile was not available that day.

She said she could not believe that her youngest child was dead, and when she saw the wounds and marks on Aphile’s body in the mortuary, she kept wondering how someone could do this to a defenceless child.

According to her victim impact statement, Zungu said Gumede should have killed her instead of an innocent child. Her daughter’s death had left her in distress and she battled with sleepless nights.

She testified that Gumede had kept contacting her while he was on the run, calling her a “prostitute”, and also offered to pay for Aphile’s burial.

She asked the court for life imprisonment, saying she feared Gumede.

Prosecutor Kuveshni Pillay also argued for life imprisonment and quoted a recent World Health Organisation study on child homicide and rape in South Africa that stated that three children were raped and killed daily in the country.

She said Gumede had felt no remorse and just felt sorry for himself when he was caught. Reference to the devil was a poor excuse, she said, and a cowardly way out in not giving Zungu a reason why her child was killed.

Maharaj said Aphile suffered immeasurable pain.

“You are one very cruel individual. I don’t believe your remorse is sincere,” he said.

“You showed no respect for Aphile in life, and in death by disposing of her in a toilet.”

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