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Woman convicted in ukuthwala sex trafficking case of 15-year-old niece has appeal dismissed

The Western Cape High Court. File picture: African News Agency

The Western Cape High Court. File picture: African News Agency

Published Nov 4, 2022


Cape Town - A Western Cape High Court judge has dismissed an appeal in a case where a woman convicted of human trafficking of her 15-year-old niece for sexual purposes wanted to be freed early so she could return to look after her own children.

During her original trial at the Wynberg Regional Court two years ago, evidence was given that when the girl was 15 years old, her father died and her aunt Zukiswa Bangi became her guardian.

During that trial, Bangi’s defence was that what had happened to her niece was the cultural mock abduction of a bride for the purposes of initiating marriage negotiations known as ukuthwala.

However, the trial magistrate did not see things the same way.

She said: “This practice is a severe and impermissible violation of women’s and children’s basic rights to dignity, equality, life, freedom and security of the person, and freedom from slavery.”

In his judgment this week, Judge Derek Wille said that evidence in the case showed that Bangi told her niece that she would be sent away to become the wife of a much older man in the form of an arranged marriage, even though it was against the child’s wishes.

“Unequivocally, it was demonstrated that the cohabitation of the child with her husband was not by consent and against her will and her express wishes.”

Judge Wille said that it was as a direct result of this arranged marriage that the child was repeatedly raped, assaulted and kept captive by her purported husband.

Following her conviction on a single count of human trafficking for sexual purposes, Bangi was sentenced to 12 years in jail.

In her appeal Bangi said she was a first offender and that she was the primary caregiver of two dependants.

Dismissing Bangi’s appeal against the sentence, Judge Wille said freeing her early would possibly in itself be detrimental to her own children’s upbringing.

He said: “The record does not reflect any suggestion that Bangi showed any form of genuine remorse at all.

“Regrettably, she does not exhibit any insight into the seriousness of the crime committed by her. This then goes to the issue of her moral blameworthiness.”

He said that by contrast, the child had been traumatised by the events that unfolded since the loss of her father.

“She was essentially denied the opportunity to flourish and enjoy her childhood and complete her career at school. This traumatic event has influenced her life irreparably.”

The judge confirmed both the conviction and sentence.

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