File Picture: Antoine de Ras.
Johannesburg - In the middle of commemorating 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, the National Prosecuting Authority won a case that will see a child rapist spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Lucky Buthelezi was convicted and sentenced to life in prison by the Vereeniging Regional Court for the rape of his 13-year-old cousin in 2011.

Buthelezi pleaded guilty to luring the girl, who was playing in the street, to go to the shops with him. On the way there, he pushed her into some bushes and raped her. She suffered multiple genital injuries as a result.

After the life sentence was handed down, he appealed on a technicality that the charge sheet had an error. As a result, the high court reduced his sentence to 15 years. The NPA was unhappy at this decision and decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal. On Friday, the NPA recorded victory when Judge Fikile Mokgohloa handed down judgment.

Judge Mokgohloa ruled that the original life sentence stood.

“...Both the regional court and the high court found that there existed no substantial and compelling circumstances justifying the imposition of a lesser sentence. I cannot find any. The fact that the respondent pleaded guilty to the offence cannot be taken as substantial and compelling circumstances by itself to justify deviation from the prescribed sentence,” the judge said.

“What I find more aggravating is the fact that the respondent took advantage of the age and vulnerability of the victim. He abused the trust the victim had in him as her cousin. His conduct in my view was sufficiently reprehensible to fall within the category of offences calling for a sentence both reflecting the court’s disapproval and hopefully acting as a deterrent to other like-minded people who satisfy their carnal desires with helpless children. There is no reason to depart from the prescribed minimum sentence of life imprisonment.”

Judge Mokgohloa said that after Buthelezi pleaded guilty, the Vereeniging court duly informed him that he was facing life imprisonment.

“In the light of this, a mere typographical error, it cannot amount to a misdirection in this case. To hold otherwise would be to put form over substance. Accordingly, I agree that the respondent’s right to a fair trial was not infringed in any way.

“He was fully aware that the charge he was facing and to which he intended to plead guilty carried a minimum sentence of life imprisonment. He confirmed that he understood the applicability and consequences of the minimum sentence. The respondent proceeded to plead guilty to the charge knowing fully that, if convicted, he may be sentenced to life imprisonment.”

The Star