This story contains graphic information that could upset some readers.

A 16-year-old Grade 10 learner has testified of how she and her four fellow pupils were taunted by other learners at school and told they deserved being raped after their ordeal became known. This came out at the Palm Ridge Regional Court, east of Johannesburg, in a case of a serial rapist, who targeted women around Tshepong and Roshnee in Vereeniging in the Vaal between 2016 and 2019.

23-year-old Sibusiso Matshaya is accused of raping the four school girls, who were all 15 years old at the time and two other victims.

He faces six charges of rape and one of kidnapping.

The case is expected to continue on Monday.

The state believes Matshaya is a serial rapist who operated in townships around Vereeniging. He would target his victims around Tshepong and Roshnee, take them to secluded areas, where he would threaten them with a knife before raping them.

His last victims, four 15 year olds, were targeted whilst walking home from school in May 2019.

One of them testified on Friday how Matshaya took turns raping her and her friends at an open veld. She says the accused threatened them with a knife and ordered them not to make any noise.

She said he also inserted his fingers in their private parts.

The learner says at the time, all four were writing half-yearly exams, and following the rapes, they could not continue writing exams for the remaining subjects.

She testified how the rape incident led to her school performance dropping drastically and continuously having flashbacks of the incident. She was even scared of returning to schools because of the taunts and derision from other learners.

She struggled to sleep at night and felt as if the accused was around her home.

Spotlight on treatment of rape survivors in court:

Next to take the stand was the Matshaya’s ex-girlfriend, Joalane Tongoane and mother to his three-year-old daughter. She told the court that after returning from work and finding Matshaya at home, she noticed the weeds plant, black jacks, embedded on his clothes. She later overheard neighbours talking about Matshaya and how he was being sought by police.

When she confronted the accused, he told her he was with a friend in Roshnee and they were trying to rob money from school children and that’s how he got the black jacks on his clothes from hiding from police.

However, the defence pointed to the inconsistencies in her testimony and the statement she gave to the police relating to the clothes of the accused. She initially testified that when she arrived back home from work, the accused came into her shack wearing the clothes but later changed to say she found the clothes on the sofa inside the shack.

Matshaya’s lawyer argued that Hlongwane was bitter because they were no longer in a relationship and wanted to implicate the accused in the rapes.

However, Hlongwane denied this and said she supported Matshaya during his court appearance and she continues to receive messages and voice recordings from him in prison, the last been two weeks ago, in which he professes his love for her and also inquiring about their daughter.

The defence is expected to call its witnesses when the case resumes. Matshaya, who seem relaxed throughout proceedings and even chuckled from time to time beneath a powder blue face mask whilst the witnesses testified, was remanded back in custody.