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Mbombela - The sentencing of an Mpumalanga woman who tortured her young niece for years was postponed again in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Friday.

The matter was postponed to May 21, after prosecutor Magda Marais said social workers had still not submitted a pre-sentencing report. She would remain in custody, a Sapa correspondent reported.

The 39-year-old woman, from Msholozi near Mbombela, cannot be named to protect the child's identity.

She was supposed to be sentenced last Friday, after magistrate Andre Geldenhuys found her guilty, on April 8, of child abuse and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. The case was then postponed for a pre-sentencing report from social services.

The court previously heard that the abuse started in 2009, when the girl was eight, and ended in December 2011, when neighbours alerted police.

Passing judgment on April 8, Geldenhuys said she lied in her testimony when she claimed neighbours made up the allegations to get her property.

He said the aunt claimed that a doctor lied about the child's injuries in his report. Geldenhuys said he could not find any truth to this.

The doctor, who examined the child at Rob Ferreira Hospital on December 12, 2011, confirmed that the child's fingers, toes and genitals had been pinched with pliers. Old scars with fresh bruises were visible on her neck, and there were injuries to many other parts of her body.

The court heard the child had come to live with the aunt when her father died and her own mother was unable to take care of her. The aunt forced her to clean and cook for her and her children.

According to the charge sheet the child was forced to sleep naked on a cold floor, with no bedding or blankets. She was not allowed to go to school, and the aunt regularly beat her with branches.

The aunt once forced the girl to climb into a pit toilet to find a key she wanted. The child had to dig through faeces and urine.

The aunt sometimes tied her up with chains, then beat her on the legs with a rubber hammer.

The aunt forced the child to drink her own urine and eat her own faeces. She would deny the child food and, when she did offer a meal, it had to be eaten from the aunt's night pot.

A witness testified that the aunt's own children were well looked after. A picture, handed in as evidence in court, showed the girl naked with a chain around her neck and hands.

The aunt pleaded not guilty to the charges.