Johannesburg - He smiled and showed no remorse as the women broke down in court recounting how he terrorised and sexually assaulted them.
This is how James Thethe, one of Joburg’s most dangerous serial rapists, taunted his victims during a two-year-long trial. But it all ended on Friday.
The 32-year-old father of two from Freedom Park in Soweto was sentenced to 290 years in prison on 27 counts of rape, intent to rape, robbery with aggravating circumstances and housebreaking by the South Gauteng High Court sitting at the Palm Magistrate Court in Kathlehong.
Four women’s elation was clear. They clapped and jumped out of their seats. They were just a handful of Thethe’s 12 rape victims present in court to hear their attacker’s fate.
On Friday was the culmination of a trial that saw 60 witnesses testify. Judge Natvarial Ranchod told a scruffy-looking Thethe, who wore a brown jacket and sat in the dock, that the crimes he had committed were extremely serious.
“What makes the crime more serious is that in a number of them not only did you break into a house to steal… but you had intent to rape…” he said.
Thethe’s reign of terror began in November 2007 when he raped his first victim in Mayfair West in Brixton when he broke into her home.
In June 2012 he repeated the same crime in Brixton and further unleashed terror on many other women in the Crosby area.
In all the crimes Thethe used a knife, a toy gun and a live-ammunition firearm.
In one instance a victim * Vuyiswa told Thethe she was HIV-positive to stop him from raping her. But he told her he had no problem because he had a condom. He raped his last victim in October 2012 in Crosby at her workplace, tying her to a bed.
The woman * Onica, a domestic worker, had just given birth a month earlier.
She alerted her employees and police nabbed Thethe soon afterwards.
on Friday Ranchod told Thethe his lawyer had been hard-pressed in presenting matters to court as he (Thethe) told the court “to do what it has to do”.
Thethe’s refusal to accept responsibility for his actions showed he took no responsibility and that efforts to rehabilitate him would be fruitless.
Thethe “awkwardly” welcomed his name being placed in the national register for sex offenders saying he had no problem with it.
Ranchod said the number of rapes he had committed in a short space of time showed he was a serial rapist.
“You are a danger and must be removed permanently from society,” he said.
Upon hearing these words, a rebellious Thethe stood up and walked towards the cells.
“Please remain seated Mr Thethe, court has not adjourned yet,” Ranchod warned.
But Thethe retorted: “What do you want from me. You’re done with me. Do you want me to beg you? What do you want?”
Those in the court gasped in disbelief.
Thethe, who had shackles on his feet, also tried hitting media cameras with a red towel but was stopped by the police.
The mother of the Thethe’s youngest victim * Wilemina said it was thanks to Onica that Thethe was arrested.
Wilemina was 16 when she was raped. She was with her grandmother at the time.
Thethe stole from their house and dragged Wilemina to the veld where he raped her.
Thethe also had previous offences – one in May 1999 for housebreaking and theft, which he denied, and another in September 2008. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison.
An elated state prosecutor Phumeza Futshane said she had mixed emotions about the sentence.
“I’m happy with what we achieved in this sentencing. At the same time I’m worried about these women, where they will go from here.
“Today’s sentencing surely sends a strong message to future perpetrators that people in the community are watching them,” said Futshane.
* Not their real names