An effective 78-year prison sentence for a serial rapist, who for years had waged a reign of terror among the poorest of the poor in Mamelodi, has on appeal been reduced to 50 years’ jail.
A full bench of the High Court in Pretoria set aside the sentence imposed in 2015 on Mozambican Simon Sithole, 29, for breaking into a series of shacks in the informal settlement in Mamelodi East and raping 21 women and robbing them of their meagre belongings.
His youngest victim was a child of 11 and three of his victims were 16-year-old girls. Sithole, who worked at a hair salon in the area, carried out his crime spree over five years.
He was caught when police tracked him down through the cellphone record of one of his victims.
He had pleaded guilty to 45 charges of housebreaking, rape and robbery and told the court he was sorry for what he did.
The judge who had sentenced him nevertheless said he should go to prison for “a very, very long time”. When Sithole appealed against his sentence, the director of public prosecutions argued that he should have been sentenced to life imprisonment for raping the 11-year-old girl.
The full bench ruled that this would have meant a harsher effective sentence, which they could not impose, because the state had not warned Sithole it would ask for life imprisonment on appeal.
Counsel for Sithole then submitted that no matter what the cumulative sentence imposed on him, Sithole would be entitled to be considered for parole after serving 25 years, meaning that any sentence over 50 years would be of no practical consequence.
The appeal judges said Sithole had been convicted of very serious crimes.
However, they found that the effective sentence of 78 years was exceptionally long.