Seven-year-old Bongi Chauke
Pretoria - Pretoria High Court Judge Mohamed Ismail was at a loss for words at the brutality of a Winterveld man who carried a sleeping 7-year-old girl out of her shack, raped her and strangled her with his shoelaces.
Ben Maselane who got two life sentences for raping and killing Bongi Chauke.
But Ben Masilo Maselane was not yet done with little Sibongile Chauke. He returned to where he left her body and hanged her up on a pole by the shoelaces around her neck. He then set a tyre and other combustible materials alight under her body.
Bongi, as she was affectionately known, was burnt beyond recognition. Her body could only be identified via DNA evidence.
The 35-year-old Maselane’s evil deeds continued; the next morning he assisted the community in searching for the child. He led them directly to where her body was, but kept mum that he was the killer.
The father of three cut a lone and pathetic figure in the high court in Pretoria on Tuesday, when he stood in the dock admitting to kidnapping, raping and murdering Bongi.
He accepted the two life imprisonment terms meted out to him without showing any emotion.
His counsel, advocate Johann Gaum, said he could offer nothing in mitigation of sentence, other than that Maselane pleaded guilty.
Veteran criminal judge Ismail, in sentencing Maselane, said this was the second case in less than two weeks he had the “displeasure” to hear the details of how a small child was raped and then brutally strangled to death.
Last week, the judge sentenced Sarel du Toit to two life terms for raping and strangling to death four-year-old Jasmin Pretorius.
Du Toit also carried the sleeping child out of her bed before raping and strangling her to death. He also, as in the case of Maselane, helped the community search for the child, although he knew where the body was.
Both killers also pleaded guilty.
In both cases the family wanted answers; Jasmin’s mother Sasha Bam wanted to visit Du Toit in prison to ask why he did that to her child.
In this case, Bongi’s brother, who was 11 at the time and asleep next to her in bed when she was abducted, said he wanted to meet his sister’s killer to also ask why.
Both girls were raped and killed by someone they knew.
Gaum said he asked Maselane whether he would be willing to meet Bongi’s brother. “He had no problem with this,” Gaum said.
The child was, however, not at court as his mother, who does odd jobs to feed her remaining two children, had to work.
Salamina Chauke and her youngest child were away on the night of February 10, 2007, to fetch money from her husband to buy food.
She left Bongi and her brother alone in their Soshanguve shack.
Maselane said he was home that day, drinking a concoction of methylated spirits, boiled with tea. He had about three mugs of this brew, when he decided to break into the home of a man he knew. He dug a hole in the ground and managed to burrow into the shack.
“I thought no one was home, but I saw two children asleep on the bed. The girl was almost naked and I decided to rape her.
“I took the sleeping child to a veld and raped her. I was afraid she would recognise me as she knew me. I tied my shoelace around her neck and strangled her,” Maselane said.
He left, but soon returned to the scene. “I hanged her body, with the shoelace still around her neck on to a nearby pole... I then set her alight.”
After leading police to the body, Maselane was on the run for years. He was only arrested last year after he had committed two other rapes for which is he now serving 18 and 10 years imprisonment respectively.
He declined to testify in mitigation of sentence, as he was “too ashamed” of his actions.
Judge Ismail said:”What you did to this child was horrendous and brutal and it cannot be tolerated in a civil society. I am at a loss for words to say what you did.
“You raped her, killed her and finally tied her to a pole and set her alight as if she was some kind of a witch at a stake. You acted cruel and barbaric. You are fortunate we no longer have the death sentence.”
The judge said there was a campaign every year to try to educate people against committing these deeds.
The State said it seemed to be a lost cause. There were no statistics, but it seemed as if these crimes were spiralling out of control.
* For the next 16 days, all South Africans are urged to be active participants in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children. The #16DaysofActivism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign begins on Wednesday under the theme, Count me in.