Noleen Makhurane Bulawayo Bureau
TWO Bulawayo magistrates were praised for their “courage” yesterday after they sent two men to jail for having sex with minors. Bulawayo Central MP Thabitha Khumalo said the courts should send the correct message that minors could not consent to sex, but were being abused by adults.
At the Western Commonage Magistrates’ Court yesterday, the ground shifted underneath two child molesters who had “consensual” sex with girls aged 14 and 15.
Mayibongwe Mpofu (20) impregnated his 14-year-old victim whom he met at Hyde Park Shopping Mall in November 2014, prosecutors said.
Mpofu, who pleaded guilty to having sexual intercourse with a minor, was told by magistrate Temba Chimiso only jail was an appropriate sentence.
He jailed him for 18 months and conditionally suspended six, telling Mpofu: “The rise and prevalence of cases of sexual abuse involving young persons is a matter of concern and calls for deterrent sentences.
“The courts are loco parents and must give sentences that protect the vulnerable girl child. Therefore a custodial sentence is appropriate.”
In another courtroom nearby, Lungelo Sibanda (32) pleaded guilty to having sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl.
He told magistrate Tancy Dube that he had no idea that the girl was a minor as he had never seen her wearing a school uniform. The magistrate sent him away for an effective 12 months in prison.
Khumalo, who led calls in Parliament last week for law reforms to ensure child molesters do not escape with lenient sentences, said: “The two magistrates have shown tremendous courage. Their actions will go some way to restore public confidence in the justice system which is increasingly friendly to child sex predators.
“However, 12 months is still too little.
“There’s no child on this earth who can consent to sex. For her to have sex, she has to be taught by a man.
“In the same way our kids are introduced and get addicted to ice cream by us, our kids are being introduced to and get addicted to sex by sick men out there.
“I speak with such a heavy heart. Twenty years ago we were fighting for the girl child to go to school, now that the same girl child is going to school, we as a society are allowing their future to be terminated by predatory men who are reversing by some 40 years the gains made to protect the girl child,” she said.
Khumalo said MPs were unable to introduce a Private Members Bill in Parliament after a ruling that only ministers could steer Bills, a ruling which is being challenged in the Constitutional Court.
“Until then, we must fight in the public parliament. It’s now time for real men to stand up, if it means demonstrating let’s demonstrate and urge the government to protect our kids. We expect the Prosecutor General Johannes Tomana to be at the forefront of this campaign. He should be the first person to move for the correction of the law.”
Khumalo said stock thieves had mandatory sentences, and it was now time to introduce mandatory sentences for sexual crimes against children.
“If you’re found in possession of a pangolin today, or if you steal a cow, you’re jailed for nine years. But if you make a 13-year-old schoolgirl pregnant, you’re let off on community service. What’s wrong with us?”