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Johannesburg - Little Keabetswe Tshabalala’s murderer and rapist started his jail term crying bitterly on Monday, five months after she was found hanging on a hook against the wall of a dilapidated building.
As Judge Maxeke Mabesele sentenced him to two life terms for Keabetswe’s rape and murder, Modise Motapane started hyperventilating.
His DNA had been found on the girl’s panties and vagina, and while he pleaded not guilty, he failed to explain to the court how this had happened.
With tears welling up in his eyes, the 37-year-old was further sentenced to seven years for the little girl’s kidnapping in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni, last year.
“He deserves the sentence, although this will never bring back my daughter. He never explained the reasons why he killed Keabetswe,” said the victim’s mother, Keneiwe Tshabalala.
She was speaking outside the Johannesburg High Court, sitting at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court, where Motapane’s trial was held.
“He lied to us. I still fail to understand why he did it. This (is a man) we all knew at home.”
When Keabetswe went missing on September 8, Motapane had joined her family and residents in searching for her, Tshabalala told the court last week.
She also said it was Motapane who had led them to the abandoned building where Keabetswe’s body was found.
Her T-shirt was half off, while the rest of her clothes were found on the floor next to her body.
Post-mortem results revealed Keabetswe had died of injuries to the neck and genitals.
Judge Mabesele said Motapane was not sorry.
“The accused is not remorseful. The internal and serious injuries sustained by the deceased leave me with no doubt that the accused is a hardcore criminal,” said the judge.
Motapane, whose bid to apply for leave to appeal was dismissed, will have his name added to the sexual offences register.
Although Tshabalala was pleased with the outcome, she also faced the burden of telling her 6-year-old son that Keabetswe will never come home.
“I still find it difficult to relate the story to him. He is still (too) young to understand what his sister went through. The pain of explaining to him is unbearable. I will do so when the time is right. Maybe I will be ready then,” Tshabalala said softly.
The Gauteng legislature’s portfolio committee on community safety welcomed Motapane’s sentencing.
“We commend the police for their work in ensuring that those who choose the barbaric life should rot in jail,” committee chairman Jacob Khawe said in a statement.
The government also welcomed the sentence.
Acting GCIS CEO Phumla Williams said: “This sentencing serves as a deterrent to those who threaten the safety of our children, our courts will deal harshly with perpetrators found guilty of these deeds”. – Additional reporting by Mpho Mphelo