Phumzile Mabope convicted for the rape and murder of 95-year-old Uitenhage resident Maria Vermaak. Picture: Raahil Sain/ANA

Port Elizabeth - A youth who was 17 years old when he raped and murdered an elderly Uitenhage resident was sentenced to an effective 25 years behind bars by the Port Elizabeth High Court on Thursday.

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 murder and rape of 95-year-old an Uitenhage resident 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. 

Judge Dayalin Chetty sentenced Mabope under the Child Justice Act and imposed the maximum sentence of 25 years. Chetty found that the circumstances of the case militated against the imposition of any lesser sentence. 

"Whilst I have great sympathy for the accused and accept that his foray in criminality was initially actuated by necessity, it is apparent from his later misdemeanours that success in minor thefts propelled him to commit further crimes of ever-increasing gravity. In his plea explanation, he acknowledged breaking into a multitude of premises and stealing goods of substantial values. Those offences, delineated in the indictment, were, on the probabilities, clearly not fuelled by hunger but by an appetite to appropriate items of value to feed his drug and alcohol dependency." 

Chetty found that one inexcusable feature of the case was the "indescribable horror" inflicted upon Vermaak. 

"Given her physique, she presented no threat to him and he could have stolen her goods and departed. But he chose not to do so. Instead, he raped her, a nonagenarian in the sanctity of her own home. Such socially deviant behaviour can never be attributed to a deprived social economic background and cannot be countenanced." 

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. 

African News Agency (ANA)