Rape victim's brother tracks down 'tyre track' footprints of alleged attacker

03 June 2021 - 13:12 By Tania Broughton
The circumstances of Zakhele Gumede’s arrest came to light in a recent judgment in which two KZN judges confirmed the sentence of life imprisonment which was handed down in the Ngwelezane regional court. Stock photo.
The circumstances of Zakhele Gumede’s arrest came to light in a recent judgment in which two KZN judges confirmed the sentence of life imprisonment which was handed down in the Ngwelezane regional court. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA

A rapist who forced his victim to wash after repeatedly sexually assaulting her thought he had covered his tracks. But at the crime scene he left behind distinctive “tyre track” footprints, which led straight to his home where he was nabbed by the victim’s brother.

The sandals made from rubber tyres, called izimbadada in Zulu, were found under his bed and R200 he had stolen from his victim was concealed in the sofa.

DNA sampling, which proved that he was the attacker, was the final nail in his coffin.

The circumstances of Zakhele Gumede’s arrest came to light in a recent judgment in which two KwaZulu-Natal judges, Mahendra Chetty and Johan Ploos van Amstel, confirmed the sentence of life imprisonment which was handed down in the Ngwelezane regional court.

Evidence at the trial was that the 32-year-old mom of four was walking home at about 8pm on January 23 2018 when she was grabbed from behind and wrestled to the ground. Her attacker threatened her with a knife.

While he raped her, he covered her eyes and warned her not to look at him. He took R200 she had hidden in her bra. He raped her several times before taking her to a river where he instructed her to wash herself.

She managed to escape from him and sought assistance at a nearby homestead, where she discovered that members of the community had realised she was missing and were already looking for her.

She told her brother, a security officer, that she did not know who had raped her but directed him to the scene of the crime. There, her brother noticed prints in the sand which appeared to have been made by izimbadada shoes.

He followed them and found Gumede asleep in his bed.

After finding the shoes and the money, he called the police and Gumede was arrested.

Gumede pleaded not guilty. He was unable to offer any explanation as to how he could be linked by the DNA evidence. He conceded that he wore the sandals but he claimed he had been playing snooker at a tavern that night. 

The judges said Gumede had been correctly convicted.

On the issue of sentence, they said Gumede had attempted to avoid detection by instructing his victim to wash herself.

“It was perhaps the quick reaction of community members as well as the complainant's brother in tracing the prints made by the sandals, that led to his arrest.”

They said it had been argued on Gumede’s behalf that she had not sustained any serious physical injury.

“But the legislation is clear that this does not constitute substantial and compelling circumstances to deviate from the prescribed penalty of life imprisonment.

“Rape leaves profound physical as well as emotional scarring.”

They said there was nothing to indicate that Gumede was remorseful and they were not persuaded by arguments that his actions were “opportunistic”.

“He preyed on an unsuspecting woman returning from work. She saw him standing near a light pole and changed her route. But that did not deter him. He followed her, wrestled her to the ground and strangled her to the extent that she was unable to scream,” the judges said, ruling that there was no reason to interfere with the sentence.

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