Johannesburg - It took two years for rape survivor Karen Howell to see justice done - and it was justice she had to fight for every step of the way.
It was Howell’s own identification and tracking of the perpetrators, her insistence that DNA be taken at the scene, her attention to detail and her fight to have a new investigating officer assigned to her case that eventually saw Khululane Sibanda and Phillip Mabaso convicted and sentenced for her rape.
It was on September 8, 2011 at 1pm when Howell heard a door slam in her Sundowner home.
She knew something was wrong. Two men had broken into her home.
Three days earlier, on the way back from walking her daughter to school, Howell had been attacked in the street.
A man had put his arm around her neck and held a 30cm knife to her throat. He pushed her to the ground and told her to give him her phone or he would kill her.
Now the same man was in her house.
“I believe the fact that I was his victim twice was pure coincidence. The magistrate said he was on a crime spree in the area,” Howell said.
Her hands were tied and she was dragged around her home while the two criminals looked for things to steal.
“They rummaged through the cupboards and then Mabaso said if he couldn’t have money, he would rape me,” she said.
Mabaso raped her while Sibanda held her down with a knife to her throat. She fought when Sibanda raped her and he eventually gave up.
“The rape was done with such ease. There was no mercy and I knew he wouldn’t hesitate to kill me,” Howell said.
Her nickname for Mabaso was “Manchester” because of a Manchester United T-shirt he wore.
Immediately after she was raped, Howell reported the matter to police and went to hospital to have an examination to gather forensic evidence.
“It was a horrendous examination that took two hours, which was very traumatic but necessary as vital DNA was recovered,” she said.
Howell made sure fingerprints and DNA were taken from the scene. She made sure bedding was tested and cloths Mabaso wiped himself with.
A few days later, she saw Sibanda sitting on the pavement outside her house. She called police, but it took them over an hour to arrive, and by then he had left.
Howell decided then to mobilise her community to try to catch the men.
A neighbour told her of an attempted break-in where the perpetrators had been caught. She drove to the house and when she looked in the police van, she immediately noticed “Manchester”.
A few days later, she was driving her daughter to school and saw Sibanda walking in the road. She followed him and called the police.
DNA linked Mabaso to her rape and his fingerprints were found in a database of other robberies in the area.
Two weeks ago in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court, the men were convicted for housebreaking and rape.
Mabaso was sentenced to four years for the break-in, 15 years for the attack in the street, and 15 years for house robbery and life for rape.
Sibanda was given life for rape and 15 years for house robbery.
“I have forgiven them. You have to move on with your life, but I needed to see that justice was done. I don’t see myself as a victim. I am a survivor,” Howell said.