A South African police officer, Warrant Officer Mhlobo Mpela, 52 will spend the next 18 years in jail thinking about how to stay focused on his next job instead of taking undue advantage of the vulnerable.
Warrant Officer Mpela, received the sentence after being found guilty of raping an awaiting trial woman prisoner 12 years ago.
According to News24, a South African Regional Court magistrate, Joe Govuza sentenced the Warrant Officer for raping a then 44-year-old woman on 23 November 2008.
The woman was then detained for the murder of her husband.
The South Africa National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Luxolo Tyali, who announced the verdict on Thursday, said that, on the night in question, the on-duty Mpela went to the female holding cells and took the victim to one of the offices where he raped her.
There were four officers on duty that night.
Tyali said two officers left the station to attend to a call, while Mpela left an officer at the charge office at 21:00.
“Upon her arrival in the holding cells, the victim informed other inmates of what had just happened to her. 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, the victim 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, followed by the lifting of DNA samples from the office where the offence was committed.”
Tyali said after raping the victim, Mpela then instructed her to clean herself with tissue paper before returning her to the holding cells.
Tyali said the trial experienced lengthy delays because the accused changed attorneys. He said mid-trial deaths of the presiding magistrate and the prosecutor of the case, also contributed to the delays.
Due to this, the trial had to be re-started from scratch, said Tyali.
During his defence, Mpela, who pleaded not guilty, said the victim, who was then on trial for the murder of her husband, had asked him to assist her in making an emergency phone call and had initiated the sexual encounter herself.
Seven witnesses were called by prosecutor Mluleki Shude to testify in the trial. They included a Sinawe Thuthuzela Care Centre doctor and an Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) investigator.
Mpela was linked to the crime through DNA evidence, said Tyali.
“Even though the State prayed for the prescribed minimum sentence of 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 [Mpela] was a first-time offender and had performed his official duties without blemish, even earning a promotion during the last 10 years, counted in his favour,” said Tyali.
The NPA welcomed the sentence and believed it was a clear indication that it prosecuted without fear, favour or prejudice, even when the crime was committed by those tasked with enforcing the law, Tyali added.