THEY were dragged off an ambulance by their pants, stripped naked, and forced to perform oral sex on their assailants before they were repeatedly raped.
Yesterday, the two paramedics who were attacked by gun-wielding men while treating a burnt toddler in Durban Deep outside Soweto cried tears of joy as their attackers were found guilty and sentenced in the Johannesburg High Court to eight life terms for the rapes.
Judge Sharise Weiner slapped Richard Tshifhiwa Luruli and Michael Khorombi with an additional 35 years for crimes, including one in which they compelled a passer-by to rape the women at gunpoint.
“These offences crossed the boundaries of humanity. The psychological trauma and loss of dignity suffered by these victims left them with deep wounds. It is our view that the guilt of the accused on all the crimes but one has been proved beyond reasonable doubt,” Judge Weiner said.
While the eight life terms for each of the eight rapes are to run concurrently, the 35 years for compelled sexual assault, compelling another person to commit a sexual offence, robbery and for a charge of unlawfully possessing a firearm will run separately. This means Luruli and Khorombi will serve an effective 60 years in jail. By then, they would be in their nineties.
“I hope victims of this horrific crime can at some stage move on with their lives. These two people had no regard for an innocent child who had been burnt and was seeking help from the paramedics.
‘The accused have shown no remorse. They never once asked for forgiveness,” Judge Weiner said.
As she said this, the crowd in court erupted in ululations and clapping of hands as the two men were led down to the holding cells.
“uVusi is waiting for you in prison. You are going to be his new girlfriend,” shouted some Johannes-burg Emergency Management Service employees and Cosatu members who filled the public gallery.
Family members hugged the two women as they wiped away tears and smiled at the same time. Then it was off to song and dance outside the court building as the two women danced along with their colleagues.
They would not comment.
“I’m so happy that justice has prevailed… although psychologically it has affected all of us terribly,” said a sister of one of the paramedics.
Equally relieved were family members of the other paramedic.
“Although it (the sentence) is not going to take away the pain… it’s a relief. The whole family was affected, especially the elderly grandmothers. But we are relieved justice has been served,” said a family member.
Also in court to support the paramedics was Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini, who said the sentence should act as a deterrent.
“The eight life sentences and 35 years will not take away the pain the (paramedics) suffered, but we thank the judge and the people who investigated. We hope these scoundrels will have time in jail to think about what they have done,” Dlamini told journalists outside court.
Cosatu had addressed the safety issue with employers, he said. “These are essential services… and they were not safe when offering essential services. Safety in the working environment has been raised and we hope employers will take it seriously,” he said.
The woman whose toddler was being treated when Luruli and Khorombi attacked the paramedics said the sentence had reduced the sense of guilt she had carried for the past two years. “I felt really bad because they were there to help me.
“I lived in fear before they were arrested, thinking they would come after me, but I’m now happy it’s all over,” said Daphne Kozomenwa.
Her baby had been burnt by boiling water when she called paramedics for help. While she went back to her shack to collect clothes for the baby the two paramedics were dragged out of the ambulance and taken to a bushy field at gunpoint. When one of the women testified last year, she said the men had told them: “Today you will be raped by vuilpops (trash).”