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They were dragged out of an ambulance, stripped naked, forced to perform oral sex on their assailants, then raped repeatedly.
On Thursday, the two paramedics who were attacked by armed men while treating a burnt toddler in Durban Deep, Soweto, shed tears of joy as their attackers were found guilty in the Johannesburg High Court and sentenced to eight life terms for the rapes.
Judge Sharise Weiner slapped Richard Tshifhiwa Luruli and Michael Khorombi with an additional 35 years for crimes, including compelling a passer-by to rape the women at gunpoint.
“These offences crossed boundaries of humanity. The psychological trauma and loss of dignity suffered by these victims left them with deep wounds.
“It is our view that the guilt of the accused on all of the crimes but one has been proved beyond reasonable doubt,” Judge Weiner said.
The eight life terms for each of the eight rapes are to run concurrently, but the 35 years for compelled sexual assault, compelling another person to commit a sexual offence, robbery and for a charge of unlawfully possessing a firearm will run separately. This means that Luruli and Khorombi will serve an effective 60 years in jail. By then, they would be in their nineties.
“I hope the victims of this horrific crime can at some stage move on with their lives. These two people had no regard for an innocent child who had been burnt and was seeking help from the paramedics. The accused have shown no remorse. They never once asked for forgiveness,” Judge Weiner said.
Court 2b erupted in ululations as the two men were led down to the holding cells. “uVusi is waiting for you in prison. You are going to be his new girlfriend,” shouted some of the Joburg Emergency Management Service employees and Cosatu members who filled the public gallery.
Relatives reached out to hug the two women as they wiped away tears and smiled. Outside the court, the women danced. They would not comment.
“I’m so happy that justice has prevailed… although psychologically it has affected all of us terribly,” said a sister of one of the paramedics.
Another relative said: “Although it (the sentence) is not going to take away the pain… it’s a relief. The whole family was affected… But we are relieved justice has been served.”
Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini said the sentences should act as a deterrent. “We hope these scoundrels will have time in jail to think about what they have done,” he said.
The union had addressed the safety issue with employers. “These are essential services… and they were not safe when offering essential service. The issue of safety in working environments has been raised.”
The woman whose toddler was being treated when the paramedics were attacked said the sentence had reduced the sense of guilt she had carried for the past two years. “I felt really bad because they were there to help me… but I’m now happy it’s all over,” said Daphne Kozomenwa.