Sitholes trial finally began on Oct. 21, 1996. Another eminent trial was already underway. During the apartheid years, the Security Police was used to deal with political threats against the government. Organizations such as the African National Congress (now the ruling party), the Pan Africanist Congress, the South African Communist Party, and the like, were banned and many of their leaders and prominent members, such as Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned or at least very closely watched. The C-10 Counterinsurgence Unit, under Col. Eugene de Kock, was involved in numerous atrocities at Vlakplaas particularly during the 1980s. Much hated by the ANC and their military wing during the Struggle, Umkhonto weSizwe, De Kock was put on trial after the ANC won the first democratic election. As Sitholes trial became imminent, De Kock was already testifying in his, neither man realising that they would be spending the remainder of their lives in the same prison block.
On Oct. 21, Moses Sithole was charged with the rapes of 40 women, the murders of 37 women and one child, as well as six counts of robbery. Grinning, he pleaded not guilty.
Deputy Attorney-General Retha Meintjies prosecuted, while Mr Justice David Curlewis presided. Eben Jordaan continued on Sitholes behalf.
The first three charges related to rapes occurring during 1987 and 1988. These women testified first. Usually, the names of rape survivors are not mentioned. I include their names because they stood up during the trial to face their monster, exposed themselves for the world to see, and helped to lock him away forever. Their courage and their victory should not be hidden.
Patricia Khumalo, age 29, was looking for work in September 1987. On the 14th, her sister introduced her to a man named Martin, whom they both identified as Moses Sithole at the trial. Martin told Patricia that he had work for her in Cleveland. Happy that she would be able to earn some money, she got on the train with him in Boksburg. They stepped off at Geldenhuis station, and Martin said that he knew a short cut through the veld. Here he became different. He grabbed me by the clothes in front of my chest. I was frightened. He ordered me to lie on the ground and raped me, she told the court, according to the CapeTimes of Oct. 23, 1996. He raped her more than once. I pleaded and cried and asked him not to kill me. He said he wouldnt, because I have the kind of eyes that makes him feel sorry, she continued, as reported in Beeld on Oct. 23, 1996. While she struggled on the stand to relate the events through her tears, Sithole smiled in amusement. He had tied her hands with her bra, pulled her dress over her head, and ordered her to wait there. The next day was her daughters birthday.
Eben Jordaan, Sitholes attorney, asked Patricia whether it hadnt been David Selepe. She said no. She had seen Sithole picture in the papers after his arrest and recognised him there. And she recognized him now.
Thembi Ngwenya testified that she had met Sithole in Sept. 1988 at the clothing store where she worked. He offered her a better paying job, but she felt that she should first speak to her employer and give notice. But Thembi remembered a friend, Dorcas Kedibone Khobane, who was unemployed, and introduced them. On Sept. 28, Sithole asked 26-year-old Dorcas to accompany him to Cleveland. Again they stopped at Geldenhuis station, and walked through the veld where he slapped her and produced a knife. He threatened to kill me with it and to cut me into pieces unless I did as he asked, she told the court, according to the Saturday Star of Oct. 26, 1996. He pushed me on the ground and took my panties off. He dropped his pants to his knees and he raped me. The man wasnt ready to leave, however, and had a conversation with her. He told me he had a girlfriend in Vosloorus named Sibongile. He said he wanted me to go look for her at her home because she had stolen some things from him, but did not say what. He then asked if we could sleep again. Dorcas said no, and he raped her for the second time. Again he didnt leave, but someone approached and he ran off. Although the man had said his name was Samson, Dorcas identified Moses Sithole as her rapist.
Sibongile Nkosi was 17 in 1988, and involved with Sithole, although she knew him as Martin. While she was testifying, Sithole for once did not smile, but buried his face in his hands. Sibongile testified that she was afraid of him then and still was now. He had frequently beaten her and had threatened the lives of her family if she were to leave him. She described how he would hit her, and then suddenly become friendly if someone visited. Advocate Jordaan told her that his client would deny that he ever laid a hand on her. Sibongile asked whether she should take off her clothes so that he could see the scars.
Lindiwe Nkosi, Sibongiles sister, testified that Martin had asked her whether she wanted to visit her sister in Soweto. It was during October 1988. They took the train and got off at Geldenhuis station. In the veld Martin asked her if she wanted to have sex with him. When she refused, he produced a bottle of petrol. He said that he would kill her and burn her if she did not have sex with him. He then proceeded to beat her, rape her and strangle her until she became unconscious. When she came to, Martin said that he would kill her and her niece if she said anything. Then he took her home. Lindiwe was 15 years old at the time.
Buyiswa Doris Swakamisa met Lloyd Thomas in February 1989. He offered her a job on a computer and she accompanied him to the business. While they were walking through the veld near Cleveland, he took out a panga (which is somewhat like a machete, and especially employed in cutting the sugar cane in KwaZulu-Natal) from a newspaper he had rolled up under his arm. He said that he was going to have sex with her. Buyiswa told the court, according to The Star of Oct. 30, 1996, that he threw the panga to one side and said if I did not want to have intercourse with him, I could run away, but had to make sure that he did not catch up with me or he would kill me. I just stood there. He came towards me and slapped me and ordered me to take off my clothes. When I did not he slapped me twice with his open hand. However, Lloyd was unable to rape her. She had to kiss his neck and stick her fingers into his ears so that he could get an erection. Then he raped her. Afterwards he told her that he hated women because he once had a child with a girlfriend in Alexandra and that his girlfriend had poisoned the child. Then he tied her up, took her money and left. She reported the rape to the police.
Some months later, Buyiswa saw Lloyd outside the place where she had found employment in the meantime. She informed the police and Lloyd was arrested, only he gave his name as Moses Sithole to the officers. In a very unprofessional move, Buyiswa had to ride to the police station in the back of the vehicle along with her rapist. He cursed her and said that he should have killed her.
Sithole was found guilty of rape in 1989 and was sentenced to six years, although he maintained that he had been falsely accused. In 1993, he was released for good behavior, yet another testament to the wisdom of this practice, although in all fairness it would only have delayed the inevitable for a couple of years. The State wanted Buyiswa to testify as to Sitholes modus operandi and also to explain why there had been no crimes during 1989 to 1993.