THE landmark 2014 judgment that sent a wealthy Mpumalanga timber tycoon, Lloyd Mabuza, to prison for eight life terms has been upheld by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria after the court dismissed his appeal to have the conviction overturned.
The landmark sentence was the harshest yet handed down for human trafficking in SA and marks the culmination of a two-year-long trial that highlighted the sordid side of cross-border human trafficking of under-aged Mozambican nationals for sexual exploitation.
Described as a sexual predator who preyed on and abused under-aged girls, Mabuza, 65, of White River, was found guilty on multiple counts of rape, human trafficking and sexual slavery, and sentenced to eight life terms in November 2014.
Monica Nyuswa, spokeswoman for the Mpumalanga prosecutors’ office, said Mabuza had appealed only against his conviction, and the dismissal of his appeal meant he would “serve his eight life terms in prison”.
Giving evidence in the 2014 trial, five young girls testified they had been trafficked from Mozambique to South Africa for sexual purposes in 2009.
They said they had been lured to SA under false pretences by a Mozambican woman who promised them the opportunity of a better life and school education in South Africa.
The girls’ shocking testimonies included vivid descriptions of Mabuza’s bedroom and en-suite bathroom where, they said, he r_aped them.
Should they not follow his instructions, Mabuza threatened them with a firearm. When they refused to go to Mabuza they were threatened with abandonment and left for days without food.
Aged between 10 and 16, they were eventually rescued in 2012 after the SAPS found them half-starved and living in appalling conditions, locked up in a compound at a remote Rhenosterhoek lumberjack village near Sabie.
Mabuza’s co-accused, Violet Chauke, 26, a Mozambican national, was convicted of trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation and handed over to Home Affairs officials for deportation back to Mozambique.
In her defence Chauke said she herself was brought to SA under false pretences by her sister, Juliet, and that Mabuza had r_aped her when she was 12.
Victor Mafolo, head of the Mpumalanga Anti-Trafficking Task Team, praised Advocate Isabeet Erwee of the Mpumalanga Directorate of Public Prosecutions “for her relentless fight for justice for the young girl victims. She successfully prosecuted this matter in the Regional Court and argued against the appeal in the High Court. It’s the greatest victory for the innocent girls who endured untold sexual exploitation at the hands of Mabuza.”