South Africa: Luyanda Botha given 3 life sentences for rape, murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana

Rape protest
Rape protest

South African post office worker Luyanda Botha has been handed three life sentences after admitting to the rape and murder of 19-year-old student Uyinene Mrwetyana.

Her killing in August sparked large protests over the high levels of violence against women in the country.

There were brief cheers in the court on Friday as the sentence was handed down.

“This judgment won’t in any manner replace Uyinene but we do appreciate it,” her uncle said, IOL reports.

In South Africa some 2,700 women were murdered by men last year.

That is five times higher than the global average. In addition, at least 100 rapes were reported daily.

In September, at an emergency sitting of parliament on this issue, President Cyril Ramaphosa said urgent action was needed and likened the figures for violence against women and children to those of a country at war.

Shortly after her murder, reports emerged that Ms Mrwetyana had been lured into the mail room of a post office in Cape Town.

She was then raped twice and bludgeoned to death, South African news site News24 reports.

Botha hid her body in the post office’s safe before taking it to another place and setting fire to it, News24 adds quoting the prosecution’s summary.

The first-year film and media studies student had been missing for a week before her body was found dumped in Khayelitsha township.

The killing led to large protests, including an attempt to storm a conference centre in Cape Town where a meeting of the World Economic Forum was taking place.

In September, the Duchess of Suss*x, Meghan Markle, tied a ribbon at a memorial on her visit to Cape Town.

She personally passed on her condolences to the victim’s mother. Meghan made the visit to “show solidarity” with protesters against gender-based violence, a post on her official Instagram account said.

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‘She was a fighter’

The family has announced a scholarship in Ms Mrwetyana’s name at the University of Cape Town where she was a student.

Addressing Ms Mrwetyana’s family at Western Cape High Court, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe reportedly said: “She fought bravely and courageously. This was indeed a heinous and cruel act and crime.

“Though it may be cold comfort to you today, it is not without significance that she was a fighter and clearly had a fighting spirit for her life.”

South Africa’s Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said the sentence handed to Ms Mrwetyana’s killer sends a strong message that gender-based violence and femicide “has no place in our society”.

This high-profile case comes amid a recent spike in violence against women in South Africa – over the past year s*xual assault increased by 9.6% and rape by 3.9%.

For many it was a sombre reminder of how dangerous everyday life had become for many South African women and that it seemed nowhere was safe – not even a post office, says the BBC’s Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

This ruling may go some way in restoring people’s faith in the justice system, our correspondent adds.

In a statement on the release of the latest figures in September, the Minister of Police Bheki Cele, said reversing the rising murder trend of the last six years was a “mammoth task, but is doable”.

Gender violence in South Africa

  • One in five women are assaulted by their partner
  • More than 40,000 cases of rape are reported every year, most of the victims are female
  • Femicide in South Africa is five times higher than the global average
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