Phumzile Mabope, 19, was convicted last month on 12 charges which included murder, rape, robbery with aggravating circumstances and housebreaking with intent to steal. Picture: Raahil Sain/African News Agency/ (ANA)

Port Elizabeth - A youth who was 17 years old when he raped and murdered an elderly Uitenhage resident should receive direct imprisonment under the Child Justice Act, the Port Elizabeth High Court heard on Monday. 

Phumzile Mabope, 19, was convicted last month on 12 charges which included murder, rape, robbery with aggravating circumstances and housebreaking with intent to steal.

The most horrific of the charges involved the brutal murder and rape of an elderly Uitenhage resident, 95-year-old Maria Vermaak. 

Mabope had claimed that he had gone to Vermaak's Luyt Street home to steal avocados from a tree on the property. He admitted to killing her, but denied the rape. 

The elderly woman was severely assaulted and the court found Mabope had raped the woman before she died. 

Between November 2015 and February 2017, the teenager went on a crime spree and broke into at least four homes and a business building.

During pre-sentencing proceedings on Monday, his lawyer, Jodene Coertzen said that Mabope's upbringing made for a sad story and that he embarked on a life of crime to survive. Coertzen said that if he had received better guidance from his parents, he might not be sitting in the position he is in today. 

She, however, conceded that the only suitable sentence was that of direct imprisonment and asked the court to sentence him in terms of the Child Justice Act, with a jail term of less than 25 years.

"A sentence of 25 years is unjust. A sentence of that length would be failing the accused and taking away any chance of rehabilitation," said Coertzen. 

In aggravation of sentence, the State argued that socio-economic circumstances should not have determined his actions.

The prosecution said that the victims, most of whom were elderly residents, were defenceless and had suffered severe trauma.

The State said that Vermaak was frail and Mabope had infringed upon her rights to safety. The State further added that Mabope still had a suspended sentence hanging over his head at the time he committed a string of housebreaking crimes, including the rape and murder of Vermaak.

"The victims of Uitenhage have come to the conclusion that the community of Uitenhage is not safe.

The State asked that Mabope be jailed on all counts. 

The Child Justice Act is a criminal justice system for minors that expands on and entrenches the principles of restorative justice. The objectives of the act are focused on rehabilitation and the reintegration of the child into the community. 

The act offers different sentencing options, ranging from community-based sentences to a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. 

Judge Dayalin Chetty will hand down the sentence on Thursday. 

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African News Agency (ANA)