Cape Town - The grandmother of rape and murder victim, five-year-old Minentle Lekhatha said she was happy that her jilted ex-lover had been found guilty on all counts at the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.
Thelma Bomela, 50 had been romantically involved with convicted rapist and murderer since 2013 after a brief friendship which started the previous year. The pair became friends as a result of their shared passion for soccer and Orlando Pirates. Xolani Lantu, 36, would often visit the Bomela home to watch soccer as he did not have DSTV in his home.
“When we met he seemed decent and an upstanding man. We shared a love for soccer and we both favoured Orlando Pirates and we would often watch games together,” she said. Bomela would not confirm when the relationship ended but said it was due to heavy drinking and bullying tactics by her lover.
Bomela told Weekend Argus she hated Lantu so much that she could not even stand to look at him in court. “We are happy that he was found guilty on all charges, we now only hope that he will get a fitting sentence. We trusted him, and for him to do what he did to her is just unimaginable, he is a monster and does not deserve to be among us,” she said.
The medium-built dark man wearing an olive jacket appeared calm and in a trans as he sat just feet away from the Bomela family. He bearly made eye contact with the family as he had his eyes fixated on one spot.
Judge Derek Wille told the court that he found that the state had “met and established the threshold of beyond reasonable doubt and as a consequence, find the accused guilty as charged in connection all four charges.” Lantu was charged with two counts of rape, one of murder and one of kidnapping.
During the judgement, the court heard that on the fateful day Lantu had been drinking at a local tavern but though he had consumed alcohol, he was aware of what he was doing and what he had done.
Lantu also confessed to having taken Minentle under the guise of taking her to a local shop to buy her chips as she had asked her for R2 when she saw him leaving her home. He claimed he did not have loose change but could buy the chips if she went with him. Video evidence which was provided in the form of photographs showed Lantu carrying Minentle towards the footbridge where her body which had also been bitten by rats was found.
Minentle had been playing outside her home when Lantu who was drinking at the tavern just two doors away took her away. Next to the tavern is a thoroughfare to the Thembeni informal settlement where Lantu lived – just metres away from her home. But according to Bomela this is not the route taken by her beloved granddaughter’s snatchers. At the time of Minentle’s disappearance, Bomela and her family were made to believe that Minentle had been taken by an older woman carrying a baby and they had walked into the direction of another section of the area. She had no idea, her granddaughter’s body would be found under the very footbridge she uses to go to work every day.
According to evidence, she was “wearing a pink pyjama top together with grey pyjama pants decorated with some hearts.” Lantu confessed that when they arrived at the footbridge to having told Minentle to undress the bottom part of her clothing and lay on her back. He attempted to penetrate her vagina but could not and that is when he told her to turn around on her stomach and penetrated her from behind. He told the court he had pressed his hands against her neck to stop her from breathing as he knew she would tell her family and community of what he had done. He then left her under the bridge and denied any knowledge of her whereabouts.
Minentle was found below the 5m-long bridge along Soet River, about 800 meters away from her home where she was last seen playing with friends. Her body was found on the last day of Child Protection Week. Hers is the 21st killing in a spate of murders of little girls in the Western Cape between January and June last year.
NPA spokesman, Eric Ntabazalila said "The State welcomes the conviction of Xolani Lantu on all the charges that were preferred against him. The State will ask the court to impose life imprisonment for each of the two rape charges, life imprisonment for the murder charge and ten years for the kidnapping charge. Credit must go to Sergeant Moleka Nteta for the sterling work he did while investigating this case. Advocate Maria Marshall has once again proved her skill when dealing with these types of cases. Her dedication and skill highlights the seriousness the State takes cases against women and children. The conviction of the accused within one year of Minentle's murder shows the NPA's continued commitment to prioritise the prosecution of all child murders in this province."
Sentencing is set for Wednesday 13.