Cape Town -

A 14-year-old girl found herself in “modern-day slavery”, in the words of a magistrate, when she was sold for R8 000 and forced to marry a man who held her captive and beat her for sex.

Wynberg Regional Court magistrate, Daleen Greyvensteyn, sentenced Mvumeleni Jezile to an effective 22 years in jail for three counts of rape, human trafficking and assault.

On Friday, Jezile was granted leave to appeal against his conviction and sentence. Greyvensteyn declined to grant Jezile bail.

During sentencing, Greyvensteyn said the situation had been terrifying for the Eastern Cape teenager, who had just finished Grade 7.

She went to a nearby shop on behalf of an elder and the next moment she was sold to marry a man she didn’t know.

The girl was taken from her home in Ngcobo and forced to go through a customary marriage to Jezile, 32, on February 2010. She escaped and ran back home. But her uncle and grandmother, who participated in the negotiations for Jezile’s bride, took her back to him.

Soon afterwards, the girl was put on a taxi bound for Cape Town. The girl lived with Jezile at his home in Philippi, and was raped several times and beaten with a broomstick, whip and belt. She escaped again and fled to the police.

She is back with her mother in the Eastern Cape.

The case is the Western Cape’s first case of ukuthwala: the traditional practice of kidnapping a young woman in an attempt to force marriage negotiations. It is also the second human trafficking conviction.

Greyvensteyn said the girl was degraded and forced into a life of servitude. As a makoti, “young bride”, she was expected to cook and clean for her husband.

The court found substantial and compelling circumstances to deviate from the prescribed minimum sentence of life imprisonment for raping a child.

Greyvensteyn imposed a lesser sentence than life after considering Jezile’s upbringing, level of education – he completed Grade 8 – his traditional beliefs, and the cumulative effect of the minimum sentences for each charge. But his lack of remorse and the fact that he continued to rape the girl, despite a large wound on her leg, were aggravating factors.

“Jezile has never shown remorse. He persisted throughout that he was innocent, and blamed custom, the church and tradition,” Greyvensteyn said.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman, Eric Ntabazalila, welcomed the sentence, saying it was the most severe penalty handed to someone convicted of human trafficking in South Africa.

In 2011, in Lusikisiki Regional Court, a human trafficker was sentenced to seven years in jail.

“This conviction ... (shows) our commitment to creating a society which is safe and secure for women and children and addresses issues that affect vulnerable groups such as women, children, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex persons and persons with disabilities,” Ntabazalila said.