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A 30-year-old man who was sentenced to life imprisonment for raping a seven-year-old girl had his sentence reduced to 22 years’ imprisonment on appeal.
This comes after a Pretoria High court acting judge felt that the little girl, although she suffered serious mental anxiety, was not physically injured when she was raped.
Acting Judge Bert Bam said the lower court should have taken into consideration the fact that the victim was not seriously injured, and the fact that accused Bafana Matwa was a first-time offender.
Matwa at first pleaded not guilty in the Vereeniging Regional Court to a charge of rape. He changed his plea to guilty, however, after the State produced DNA evidence which directly linked him to having sex with the girl.
According to her, she was living with her grandmother on August 1, 2010. Her granny was not home at the time and the victim was in the house, playing with other children.
Matwa, whom she knew, came into the house and he carried her to a bedroom. She tried to scream, but he covered her mouth.
She said he undressed her as well as himself and raped her. After the rape her sister walked into the room, but Matwa had already left by then. The victim, who was still naked at the time, told her sister what had happened.
The judge noted that according to medical evidence, the little girl did not suffer any physical injuries, apart from the injuries to her private parts, which the doctor noted on an official form.
According to the doctor’s notes, the child weighed 29.3kg and “features of forced vaginal penetration were found to be present”.
It was earlier submitted on behalf of the accused that he showed remorse when he changed his plea to one of guilty.
Judge Bam said a plea of guilty was on its own not enough proof of remorse as it had to be substantiated by acceptable evidence, which was lacking in this case. He added that it must be noted that the plea of guilty only followed once the State produced the DNA evidence which clearly linked Matwa to the crime.
The judge said there was overwhelming evidence against the accused and that this was an “open and shut case”.
He added that the rape of a child was a very serious matter and quoted a previous judgment in which it was said that “rape of a child is an appalling and perverse abuse of male power”.
But, he added, the magistrate should have found that a lesser sentence than the prescribed life sentence should have been imposed in the light of the mitigating factors.