Ex-student pleads guilty to 39 rapes

Several attacks took place at Fort Hare over five years

Former Fort Hare University student Lonwabo Solontsi, 28, pleaded guilty yesterday to 39 rapes over five years, several of which were perpetrated at the university. The serial rapist raped women wherever he lived.

His chilling crimes were committed across three provinces – the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and North West. However, the majority were committed in the Eastern Cape.

His hunting grounds included the Alice campus of his alma mater, as well as the towns of Bathurst, Idutywa, Willowvale and King William’s Town.

His guilty plea confirms him as one of the country’s worst serial rapists.

Solontsi pleaded guilty to a further 26 charges, including robbery with aggravating circumstances, and housebreaking with intent to rob and rape.

Judge Thami Beshe convicted Solontsi on all the charges.

More than a dozen of his victims sat in the public gallery listening to the litany of horror contained in Solontsi’s 35-page plea statement, which was read out by his legal aid lawyer, Helen McCallum.

Solontsi listened intently as the details of his horror crimes were read out over about two hours in the Grahamstown High Court.

A hoarse McCallum, who paused to sip water, repeated the phrase “without her consent and against her will” 39 times while reading out his statement.

Solontsi admitted that he had raped so many women that he could not recall the exact details in at least 11 of the cases.

In each of these, even though his recall on exact details was vague, he admitted the complainant was telling the truth.

He was linked to all the cases through DNA evidence.

In several cases, he told the women to count to 100 before covering their faces with an item of clothing and fleeing.

In one case, he told a teenager he had enjoyed having sex with her.

In his plea statement, Solontsi admitted every terrible aspect of all 67 crimes against dozens of women, teenagers and children, aged 11 to 46, during his violent five-year spree, which started in Alice in 2010 when he was a student there.

He terrorised the Alice campus students, where he raped at least six over three years. He also robbed most of the women he raped.

In about 10 of the 39 incidents, he either raped women and teenagers multiple times or raped more than one woman in a house that he had broken into.

He raped a child in her home and teenagers on their way to and from school.

Solontsi seemed to have raped women because they were unfortunate enough to cross his path.

They were forced into the bushes, humiliated, threatened, assaulted and raped, sometimes in broad daylight.

Senior state advocate Nickie Turner, prosecuting, has indicated that the state will seek the mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment in at least 11 of the counts because the victims had either been raped more than once or were under the age of 16.

It will also request life sentences in at least five other counts.

The judge will hear argument on sentencing today.

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