The High Court of South Africa, Eastern Cape Division, sitting in Mthatha, has granted the Eastern Cape Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) leave to appeal an “inappropriately lenient sentence” imposed by the Mthatha Regional Court on a man who raped a nine-year-old girl.
Siya Mandisi Qongqo, 45, was sentenced to a mere five years in prison for the rape of a minor two years ago.
Qongqo pleaded guilty to the heinous crime, which took place on June 5, 2021 at the victim's home in KwaNonkobe Location, Mthatha district.
Claiming to be intoxicated and lacking recollection of his actions, he attempted to justify his abhorrent behaviour.
Surprisingly, the Regional Court accepted his plea explanation and considered it a mitigating factor.
Luxolo Tyali, the NPA regional spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Division, expressed the prosecution's deep concern over the sentencing decision.
"The lower court erred by placing an excessive emphasis on Qongqo's alcohol consumption and purported remorse.
"The court acknowledged that the prosecutor had the duty to impose a life sentence, as prescribed by the Minimum Sentences Act," said Tyali.
The Eastern Cape DPP promptly moved to address this alarming anomaly, approaching the High Court for leave to appeal the sentence handed down on March 30, 2022.
The court's decision to grant leave to appeal offers a glimmer of hope for justice in this distressing case. The appeal will be heard by the full bench of the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court, ensuring that all relevant facts surrounding the shockingly inappropriate sentence will be thoroughly examined.
With the appeal, the DPP aims to rectify the grave error made by the Regional Court and seek a just and appropriate punishment for Qongqo's actions.
The appeal will be a critical opportunity to challenge the lenient sentence and ensure that justice is served for the young victim and her family.
The case has once again sparked a public outcry for stricter penalties in cases of sexual violence, particularly against minors. As the appeal unfolds, the spotlight will be on the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court to rectify what some are calling a disturbing sentencing decision and send a resounding message that crimes of this nature will not be tolerated in South Africa.
“The granting of leave to appeal provides the DPP with the opportunity to make an appeal against the sentence to the full bench of the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court, where all facts regarding the shockingly inappropriate sentence will be aired,” Tyali said.