Child-rape trial ends in 19-year jail term

A man convicted of raping a girl who was alleged to have been trafficked from Angola to northern Namibia has received an effective prison term of 19 years on three counts of rape and another charge at the end of his trial in the Oshakati High Court.

During the trial of Sebron Shilongo (54), his wife, Helena Kaupitwa (47), and two co-accused, acting judge Danie Small was informed that the child Shilongo was accused of raping on three occasions was found to have a sexually transmitted infection when a medical doctor examined her in January 2018.

The girl’s age was not established with certainty during the trial. Her biological father told the court she was born in Angola in December 2006, while her date of birth was indicated as being in November 2008 when she was baptised at a church at Endola during 2017.

The state alleged that Shilongo raped the girl three times during the period from June 2015 to 2018 at a village in the Ohangwena region.

Testifying about the alleged incidents, the girl could not give the dates when Shilongo raped her, but gave detailed accounts of how each incident took place at the home of Shilongo and Kaupitwa at a village in Ohangwena.

Kaupitwa was not at home when she was raped, the girl told the court. During the sentencing of Shilongo, Kaupitwa and two co-accused on Monday, Small noted that a social worker reported to the court that the abuse suffered by the girl completely disrupted her life.

She was placed in a children’s home in Windhoek in 2018, and made a suicide attempt in October last year, the social worker reported. The girl’s explanation for the suicide bid was that she wanted to go back to her parents in Angola, the court was told. Kaupitwa stood trial on 13 charges, including two counts of trafficking in persons in which the state alleged that she trafficked the girl raped by Shilongo from Angola to Namibia, and also trafficked a nine-year-old girl who lived with her during 2017, to exploit the two children through forced labour.

Kaupitwa was acquitted on both counts of trafficking in persons after Small found the state did not prove that household tasks performed by the two girls while living with Kaupitwa – including working in crop fields, fetching water and firewood, and taking younger children to school – amounted to forced labour.

Small found Kaupitwa guilty on an alternative charge of kidnapping in respect of the nine-year-old girl, though.

Kaupitwa was also found guilty on counts of aiding and abetting a foreigner to enter and remain in Namibia, harbouring a child subject to compulsory school attendance during school hours, and assault.

In addition to the three counts of rape, Shilongo was found guilty of attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice for trying in June 2018 to get the mother of the nine-year-old girl to change her evidence that Kaupitwa had taken her daughter from her home without her permission.

Two other accused who stood trial with Shilongo and Kaupitwa – Petrus Shilongo (51) and Meduletu Shilongo (37) – were found guilty on charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm in connection with an assault carried out on the Angolan girl on 1 December 2017.

Small sentenced Petrus Shilongo to two years’ imprisonment and Meduletu Shilongo to a prison term of 18 months, but suspended both sentences in whole for a period of five years on condition that they are not convicted of aggravated assault committed during the period of suspension. Kaupitwa was sentenced to an effective prison term of one year on the kidnapping charge, and to fines totalling N$3 500, or prison terms totalling one year and nine months, on the other charges.

Sebron Shilongo received a prison term of 15 years on each of the three counts of rape, with 14 years of one of the sentences and 13 years of another ordered to be served concurrently with the third 15-year term of imprisonment.

On the charge of attempting to defeat of obstruct the course of justice, Small sentenced Shilongo to a one-year jail term. Deputy prosecutors general Lucious Matota and Innocentia Nyoni and state advocate Soraya Petrus represented the state during the trial.

The four accused were represented by defence lawyers Pombili Shipila, Mukaya Nyambe, Gromyko Mukasa and Natji Tjirera.

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