PHOTO: Elna Japhta who was murdered in May 2015. Image: Supplied
CAPE TOWN – A clearly exasperated state prosecutor drilled Zimbabwean Gift Sibondo on Tuesday in the Western Cape High Court as she attempted to get clear explanations about what happened in the days before 15-year-old Elna Japhta was murdered in May 2015.
Evadne Kortje relentlessly cross-examined Sibondo who faces ten charges, including rape, statutory rape, kidnapping and murder.
Japhta’s body was found under Sibondo’s bed at the home they shared in an informal settlement in Bredasdorp, a small town about two hours away from Cape Town.
A forensic pathologist testified during the trial that she had been severely beaten with a blunt object, had severe bleeding on the brain and had been strangled.
The State alleges that Sibondo first kidnapped Japhta in September 2013, when she was just 13 years old. He allegedly forced her to travel with him to Johannesburg, Leeu-Gamka and Swellendam over the course of nine months, during which time he allegedly repeatedly raped her. The teenager finally returned home in June 2014.
Sibondo was arrested and appeared in court for the first time on June 23.
He would spend the next five months in prison before the case against him was withdrawn on November 5.
During cross-examination on Tuesday, Sibondo claimed that Japhta wanted to stay with him after his release, but he refused, and finally relented when she cried as he felt “sorry for her”. He told the court that they were in love.
“We were boyfriend and girlfriend, but we were not kissing or having sex.”
Kortje asked him if he remembered her birthday and celebrated it “like normal people in a relationship do”, but he testifed that he couldn’t remember her birth date. He also claimed that the teenager drank alcohol, and while he didn’t have a problem with that, it would sometimes cause her to faint.
About a week before the teenager was murdered, Sibondo had had an altercation with a man who had been Japhta’s boyfriend at one stage. Lino Karavina allegedly assaulted Sibondo because he was jealous of their relationship. Sibondo would spend four days at Tygerberg hospital in Cape Town. Sibondo returned to Bredasdorp exactly a week before Japhta’s body was found.
Sibondo testified that he was in pain when he returned to the town, and spent the first night at Bredasdorp hospital and the second night at friends. But he said the following morning, before sunrise, Japhta arrived to take him home. He conceded that he could walk home, eat and move his arms.
During the trial, two witnesses testified that they had seen him carry the battered and bruised teen over his shoulder into his shack two days before her body was found. When one of them asked him why he had assaulted her, he allegedly said he had beaten her because she had not been home for four days.
Cross examination is expected to wrap up Thursday, and judgement likely to be delivered next week.