Picture: succo/Pixabay

Johannesburg - One fateful early evening in October 2013, an 18-year-old Grade 12 girl was brutally raped by four men in front of her two male classmates who had been stripped naked by her rapists.

The gang rape, which happened at an open veld in Palm Ridge, Ekurhuleni, left the girl too injured to walk home after her ordeal.

This rape, however, is one of the 50 counts that Benito Khoza, 29, from Palm Ridge, was found guilty of on Thursday. 

Her classmates, with whom she was preparing for the final exams, were forced by the gang to strip naked. 

Sitting in the South Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, acting Judge Prince Manyathi found Khoza guilty on 50 of the 53 counts the State brought against him. 

Found guilty of counts including 20 rapes, Khoza joins a list of several serial rapists to be convicted and jailed by the country's courts. 

He was also found guilty of several counts of kidnapping, aggravated robbery and possession of an unlicensed firearm. 

As part of a brutal gang of four, Khoza terrorised Ekurhuleni communities of Palm Ridge, Katlehong, Zonkizizwe, Tsietsi and Kwanele between 2013 and 2017.

The serial rapists pounced on women walking home in the early evening. Pointed with a gun, the women were dragged to open fields and raped by four thugs.

One of the victims became pregnant from the gang rape. The pregnancy was terminated after a decision she reached with her family. 

All raped in secluded spaces, the women were robbed of most of the clothes they wore. Judge Manyathi said most of the victims ran to the road half-naked after being raped. 

Khoza was arrested in late 2017, initially for possession of an unlicensed firearm. 

Positive DNA results subsequently linked him to the many rape cases opened in the East Rand communities. 

During the trial Khoza denied raping the women, claiming majority of them were his girlfriends and therefore had consensual sex with them. 

The only victim he denied having sex with nor knowing was the matriculant. DNA results proved otherwise. 

DNA results were negative in one case, but Khoza was found guilty for this rape too because he admitted having sex with the victim - claiming it was consensual. 

Judge Manyathi found his defence that the woman was his girlfriend with whom he had rented a shack with to be false. 

The judge questioned how the woman would report and testify about the exact details of the gangs modus operandi if she was not raped. 

"I'm satisfied she was telling the court truth. The accused’s version is false beyond a reasonable doubt," said Judge Manyathi. 

It was a blatant lie that any of the victims were Khoza's girlfriends, the court found. 

"He says that those are his girlfriends… why does he when he has sexual intercouse with them invite other three men to have sex with them?" asked Judge Manyathi. 

Why were the women threatened with a firearm and others an axe? "Clearly that negates consent.

"Why would all of these girls decide to open cases against him? These complainants do not know each other from a bar of soap," added the Judge. 

"At some stage he claimed they opened cases because he'd not give them money. Clearly, the version of the accused is not possibly true."

Two of Khoza's accomplices were believed to have died, while one remained unidentified. 

Khoza will be sentenced in October. 

@BonganiNkosi87