Cape Town - A Cape Town dance teacher who lured children to his home after classes has been convicted on seven counts of rape.
He was also found guilty of one count of sexual grooming and three of exposing young girls to pornography.
Western Cape High Court Judge Nonkosi Saba convicted Lawrence Gagu, 49, on 11 counts relating to his sexual crimes against seven young girls between June 2009 and March 2010.
Gagu, from Khayelitsha, who taught traditional dance, was discharged on one count of sexual assault.
His victims, aged between eight and 12, each took the stand and testified that they were lured to his shack in Enkanini, Makhaza, after lessons on the pretext of his wanting them to clean his shack or run errands.
The court heard that Gagu would ask two girls to go home with him and once there, would instruct one to collect water. He would then rape the remaining girl.
Gagu washed the girls after the rapes and, threatening them at knife-point, told them they must keep quiet or he would kill their parents. One girl, who was 10 at the time, was raped 12 times.
Another was forced to look on while Gagu raped her friend
so that she could take note how the friend “moved”.
In her four-hour judgment, Judge Saba said the girls were honest witnesses and corroborated each other’s stories.
Gagu had denied all the allegations, saying the girls had fabricated them because he suspended one of his pupils from dance practice for bad behaviour. He confirmed he had asked the girls to fetch water for him, but said he did so only once a month.
His defence said the girls were single witnesses, there were contradictions in their evidence and they might have been influenced by parents.
But Judge Saba said: “One would expect their versions to be somewhat similar if [they] were fabricated… Their… recollection was amazing.”
Gagu had convinced the parents of the children he was God-fearing.
“He taught [the girls] to behave and obey their parents. All the parents spoke of the accused as a God-fearing person and he even got gospel music for one parent who was feeling down. All the parents and victims seemed to love the accused,” Judge Saba said.
Outside the court an aunt of one of the girls said she was happy the trial was over. “All I can say is God sees everything that happens.”
National Prosecuting Authority Eric Ntabazalila said the State was satisfied with the ruling and called for seven life sentences to be imposed.
Gagu is due back in court on October 29.