After nearly 12 years, a woman detainee raped by a policeman at the Mthatha Central police station has received justice.
Warrant Officer Mhlobo Mpela, 52, has been sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment by the Mthatha regional court.
Luxolo Tyali, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape National Prosecuting Authority, said the rape took place on November 23 2008. Mpela, then a sergeant, who was on night duty, went to the female holding cells about 9pm
“The police officer took his then 44-year-old victim from the cells to one of the offices at the police station where he raped her twice, anally and orally, after which he instructed her to clean herself with tissue paper before returning her to the holding cells.”
The woman told other inmates of the attack on her return to the cell.
The following morning, she reported the rape to a police officer who had come to perform a headcount of the detainees, “but the officer allegedly told her they were still busy with handing-over duties”.
Later in the day, she managed to have her case registered when she reported the matter to a colonel on duty, and she was taken to Sinawe Thuthuzela Care Centre (TCC), at Mthatha General Hospital, for medical examination.
DNA samples were also taken from the office where the offence was committed.
Said Tyali: “The NPA welcomes the sentence and believes it is a clear indication that it prosecutes without fear, favour or prejudice, even when the crime is committed by those tasked with enforcing the law.”
The trial experienced lengthy delays, Tyali explained, because of the deaths of the original presiding magistrate and the prosecutor. The accused also changed defence attorneys.
The trial had to be started afresh.
Mpela pleaded not guilty.
He said the victim, who was then on trial for the murder of her husband, had asked him to assist her to make an emergency phone call and had initiated the sexual encounter herself.
Prosecutor Mluleki Shude called seven witnesses, including the TCC doctor, Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) investigator, and presented DNA evidence which linked the accused to the offence.
Even though the state requested life imprisonment to be imposed, magistrate Joe Govuza found that there were substantial and compelling circumstances justifying a deviation. He stated that the fact that Mhlobo was a first offender and had performed his official duties without blemish, even earning a promotion during the past 10 years, counted in his favour.