Victims living in fear of dead serial rapist’s partners-in-crime

The victims of serial rapist Johannes Jojo Shabangu – who died in a holding cell in court this week after pleading guilty to a slew of charges – are still living in fear.

With Shabangu’s accomplices unknown and still at large, the women told Sunday World that they were scared the men would come back to harm them.

Had it not been for a case of murder for which Shabangu was arrested, he would have also evaded justice.

It was after his arrest for murder in October 2021 that his DNA linked him to multiple cases of rape and robbery with aggravating circumstances in Winterveldt, north west of Pretoria.

Until then, the serial rapist who worked with one accomplice at a time to rape girls and women; assault the men who were in their company, and rob them all of their personal belongings, was unknown by the police.

On Wednesday, before his death, Shabangu pleaded guilty to 14 counts of rape and 11 of robbery with aggravating circumstances at the North-West High Court, which sat at the Ga-Rankuwa magistrate’s court, north west of Pretoria.

The 35-year-old father of six died in a holding cell during an adjournment. He was making his second appearance in the trial that started on Monday.

“I don’t feel safe knowing that one of the men who raped me is roaming the streets,” said one woman.

Shabangu, who was a taxi driver, committed the crimes from 2012 to 2019 in the Winterveldt area. He targeted women who were in the company of their male companions. Sometimes they would attack the victims in their own homes.

Working with an accomplice, Shabangu would rob them at gunpoint, assault the males and proceed to rape the women. Thereafter his accomplice would also rape them.

One of the women said at the clinic on the day she was raped, there was already another woman who had been raped by Shabangu.

“There’s only a few of us here today. He has been convicted of only 14 rapes, but I can tell you that there are at least 75 of us that I know of that have been hurt by this man. There were 34 rape cases that were registered. Other [victims] could not be located,” said a woman in her mid-30s.

“It has been more than 10 years since some of the rapes happened. Other women felt being part of the court process was going to open painful wounds. Others have moved on with their lives,” she added. “It is difficult for me to be here.”

The woman said after the rape, she turned to alcohol to numb the pain. “I even stopped going to therapy because I felt I was reliving the rape,” she said.

For a 22-year-old woman, who was a minor when she was raped in 2016, looking over her shoulder has become second nature to her. “I know very little about the second man who raped me,” she said. “He could be here in court watching me as we speak and I wouldn’t know because he (Shabangu) did not tell the police who he was.”

The young woman, who was 15 at the time, was in the yard with a male friend when they were attacked by Shabangu and his accomplice. They threatened them with a firearm, robbed them of their belongings and then took her away and took turns raping her.

“My life has not been the same since,” she said, rocking back and forth in the wooden court bench. “I even dropped out of school because I could not concentrate in class. My mind would wander to the day I was raped,” she said.

“He is not human. He is a monster. He has no heart.”

Shabangu sat stone-faced with his head slightly down when his attorney from Legal Aid South Africa TG Sekgonyana read his guilty plea in which he also asked for forgiveness from his victims.

The left side of the gallery was occupied by several victims and their families. On the right it was a group of women who work under the community safety to support rape and gender-based violence victims.

Kamogelo Sithole, who is part of the community safety brigades, asked: “Why does this happen on the day of his judgment?”

Shabangu’s mother, who was accompanied by the mother of his youngest child, was also present in court this week.

Shabangu’s mother told Sunday World she was shocked by what she heard in court. “He was a good son and a responsible father to his children. I can’t believe he committed all these crimes that he said he did.”

Shabangu’s girlfriend was unable to speak, fighting back tears.

Another woman looked Shabangu straight in the eye as she made her way to the gallery. “I just want him in prison for the rest of his life. He has no idea of the damage he has caused in my life,” she said.

On Thursday, Judge Andre Peterson confirmed the death of Shabangu after being handed the declaration of death certificate and pronounced that the court process was over.

He ordered for an inquest to be opened to establish the cause of Shabangu’s death. He also ordered that his death certificate be submitted to the registrar at the North-West high court.

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