Durban - Five-year-old Nosihle Zondo went next door to play, but ended up being raped and murdered by her neighbour, a sangoma who then dumped her blood-soaked body in a pit toilet.
For his “brutal and heinous” crimes, 23-year-old Philani Phoswa, who pleaded guilty, was yesterday sentenced to two life terms by the High Court in Scottburgh.
The sangoma, of Highflats near Ixopo, had raped and stabbed the child on December 8 last year, while his own 10-month-old daughter slept in another room. He claimed he had become sexually aroused while watching TV.
Phoswa cried and hid his face yesterday as his attorney, Ishi Khan, read out his confession
to a packed courtroom.
In the statement, he said Nosihle, who had come to his house to play with his niece, was watching TV after his niece had left to visit an aunt.
He said his daughter had fallen asleep so he carried her to his bedroom.
“When I returned to the kitchen I became sexually aroused while watching TV,” he said.
“I was easily aroused because I had not had sexual intercourse for at least three months.”
Phoswa then asked Nosihle to remove her clothes and lie down on a blanket, “because I wanted to teach her a game”.
“When (she) complied with my instructions, I lowered my trousers and underwear to my knees and raped her,” he said.
“The deceased began to cry and I ordered her to keep quiet,” he said, adding, however, that the TV volume was loud enough to drown out her cries.
After raping the girl, Phoswa said she lay on the floor crying. “I realised that if I let the deceased return to her home, she would tell her family that I had raped her.”
That is when he decided to kill her. “I took a table knife and I used it to stab her once on her abdomen,” he said in the statement.
“I concluded she was dead when she eventually stopped breathing.”
Phoswa then wrapped Nosihle’s lifeless body in the blood-soaked blanket and concealed it in an unused pit toilet behind his house.
The court heard how Phoswa, who has a previous conviction for stock theft, had acted ignorant when Nosihle’s family raised the alarm about her disappearance later that day.
However, he said he was overcome with remorse the next morning and reported to another sangoma what he had done.
The body was recovered and Phoswa was arrested.
Dressed in a grey shirt and trousers, Phoswa clutched his hands and listened attentively while Khan read out his confession.
There were murmurs of disbelief from the public gallery, where Nosihle’s parents and her grandmother, with whom she had lived, sat with others. They reacted with shock at the gruesome details, including that “the devil” had made Phoswa rape the girl.
Before Judge Anton van Zyl handed down sentence, a remorseful-looking Phoswa said a quick prayer, looked back at the public gallery, but quickly covered his face when some people hurled insults at him.
Van Zyl described the crime as brutal and callous.
“She died an agonising death while you watched her,” he said. “It’s difficult to imagine a more brutal and heinous crime.”
He said the decision to stab Nosihle was a calculated one.
“You raped her to satisfy your own desires and you disposed of her body in the most undignified way,” said Van Zyl, before sentencing Phoswa to two life terms.
He also refused Phoswa’s application for leave to appeal.
A highly emotional Velile Zondo, Nosihle’s mother, said although it would not bring back her youngest child, she was happy with the sentence.
“I knew and trusted him and so did my daughter,” she said outside court, trying to hold back tears. “I’m glad he got life sentences because I don’t think I would have been able to look at him ever again.”
Peter Mbona, chairman of a men’s forum in the local Sisonke district, welcomed the sentencing, saying it served as a reminder to men not to abuse women and children.
“We really saw justice today,” he said.