By ZELDA VENTER
Serial rapist Zakaria Muyambo asked his victims for their forgiveness for the trauma which he had caused them, but he blamed his behaviour on bad friends.
The 34-year-old Mozambican testified on Thursday in mitigation of sentence in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria. He asked the court to have mercy on him and to accept that he simply got mixed-up with the wrong crowd.
“I beg for the forgiveness of my victims and for the suffering I caused them. I hope the court can forgive me as well. I know my crimes were horrendous. I apologise for this.”
Muyambo was this week convicted on 20 charges – including six of rape. He admitted that he and two friends drove around “looking for money”. Sometimes there were only two of them and at other times three when they went on their crime sprees.
He said he did not know the addresses of his friends, but their names were David and Sam. All of them lived in Atteridgeville.
They would pretend to operate a taxi and target female passengers. These women were robbed using either a gun or a knife. They would then be taken to a remote spot where they were raped.
Muyambo said he was not a taxi driver, but a builder. According to him, they used his friend’s taxi to lure their victims. Several of the victims, however, claimed he was the driver, but Muyambo said he could hardly drive.
Asked by his advocate “why a man like you committed such crimes?”, Muyambo explained he came to South Africa to work and find a better life, but he ended up with the wrong crowd.
“They would say ‘let’s go and find money and rob the people who board the taxi’. I was told to commit these crimes.”
Muyambo said it was true some of these women cried when they were attacked. “I saw it, but I was remorseful. After the last crime I realised what I had done and that it was wrong. I realised it was no way to live because I was hurting people.”
Prosecutor Juliet Makgwatha, however, told him he did not have true remorse. He was simply sorry he was caught.
The kidnappings, robberies and rapes lasted for months during 2015 and 2016 and women from across Pretoria fell prey to Muyambo and his friends. In most cases they were gang-raped by him and his friends.
They handed victim impact reports to Judge Peet Johnson, in which they pleaded with him to send Muyambo to jail forever. They said he had ruined their lives and they now fear boarding a taxi.
“My whole life changed and I will never forget the day he left us tied up to a tree after we were raped. We had to walk, naked, to look for help. We had no idea where we were,” one said. She and her friend were gang-raped after they were abducted in a taxi.
Another woman said she too, did not know where she was when they left her in the veld after she was raped.
“I was not sure whether I was running into danger and whether they were going to catch me. My clothes were torn and I was terrified. I prayed to stay alive and I am grateful that I am still alive. But I feel violated and as if life has stopped.”
One victim said she tried to avoid taxis, but if she had no choice she took down the number plate and took a profile picture of the driver.
Another said she now feared strange men.
The defence has pleaded for leniency while the State called for life imprisonment.