Two young women – who were teenagers when they were allegedly raped by Joseph Rasempane Mahloma and an unknown male in a Tembisa field in January 2011 – were the first of 103 witnesses who the State will call in its quest to prove Mahloma’s guilt.
The accused is facing 104 charges, including 22 of rape, 17 of kidnapping and three of sexual assault in an alleged reign of terror that prosecutors say started in January 2011 and ended with Mahloma’s arrest in August 2014.
A source close to the investigation told The Star that prosecutors had to bring an application to hold Thursday’s proceedings in camera before the court – in terms of section 153(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act – “so as to not only protect the identities of the complainants, but to spare them humiliation and embarrassment”.
Section 153(3) roughly entails giving a court discretion in criminal proceedings relating to a charge that the accused committed an indecent act towards another to hold the proceedings behind closed doors; only parties involved in the case are allowed to be present.
This application was not opposed by Mahloma’s legal representative, advocate JN Malende.
Asked about the state of the two women before testifying, the source said: “No, they are not fine. They are doing their best to move on with their lives, which is good."
“But such a thing has a terrible psychological effect on a person.”
The charge sheet, which was read out on Tuesday by State prosecutor Deborah Zinn, alleged that Mahloma and an unknown accomplice forced three young women – aged 14, 16 and 18 in 2011 – to accompany them at gunpoint to a field near Themba Khoza informal settlement in the early hours of January 1.
They then tied up the 18-year-old while they raped the other two. The 18-year-old was then raped by one of the alleged perpetrators.
All three women’s clothes were then taken and they were made to walk home naked.
The three women were examined on the day of the incident by Tembisa Hospital’s Dr EM Tipoy, who used a sexual assault examination kit to compile a DNA identikit; the evidence of which was admitted into court on Wednesday without dispute.
The State hopes that the DNA collected from this kit will tie Mahloma to the alleged rapes.
Another reliable source close to the investigation said earlier this week that the police had yet to find and arrest the accomplice as Mahloma refused to name him.
The search had since been suspended.
The source said the accused had claimed “he was prepared to take on the accomplice’s charges for himself”.
Mahloma pleaded not guilty to all 104 charges.