The mother of four children who were brutally murdered, allegedly by their father, has told the Polokwane high court that the man abducted and raped her just a day before the killings. Sylvia Monyela, 31, broke down several times as she took the stand in the trial against Lucas Phasha, who allegedly killed their children after accusing her of cheating. Monyela will take the stand again because she had to be given time to gather herself during her emotionally charged testimony.
The defence is expected to continue cross-examining her on the killings that happened on February 18 last year. The lifeless bodies of her children – Katlego, 9, Joyce, 7, Tshepo, 5, and Adel, 3 – were found at two separate locations in Selatole section of GaPhasha village, near Burgersfort. Monyela also told the court that police in Moroke, also known as Mecklenburg, refused to open a case of rape and abduction.
She told the court that because of Phasha’s abusive behaviour, she and the children had moved to her late mother’s house but on February 17, he came for her. Monyela said Phasha was armed with a panga and axe when he forced her to go to their place. Monyela said when they got there, Phasha raped her. Monyela said no-one had spoken to her about the rape incident after her testimony.
Monyela has agreed to being named even though she has revealed that she was raped, saying she wanted to break the silence and to tell her story. She said this was also because police refused to help her. Monyela said she had hoped by opening a case, police would apprehend Phasha but she was turned away and told to go to a police station 50km away to apply for a protection order against him.
“I pleaded with a Moroke police officer to lay rape and abduction criminal charges against the father of my four children when he had became abusive, violent and aggressive towards me and my children but a male police officer refused to help me and told me to go to Praktiseer police, more than 50km away from Moroke, to apply for a protection order,” she told the court, weeping.
“I went to my aunt’s home to request money [so that I could] take a taxi to go to Praktiseer to obtain a protection order but I didn’t get the money. Lucas phoned me in the evening [of February 17], saying he was going to take the children to the police station and kill himself.”
Monyela said after 11pm on the day, she received a call from a police officer who asked where Phasha was because she had received a call from him and he had told her that he had killed the children. She said she never took the phone call seriously because it was during the night and that when she asked the police woman if they had arrested Phasha and about the whereabouts of her children, the policewoman didn’t have a direct answer.
“In the morning, I received a call from my neighbour who told me that Lucas phoned him, telling him that he killed the children and dumped them. I immediately went to the spots where their bodies were,” she said.
State prosecutor advocate Mashudu Mudau asked Monyela to tell the court about what she found at the scene.
“I found my child at the scene lying dead…” she broke down.
Judge Gerrit Muller adjourned the proceedings for 10 minutes to allow Monyela to compose herself.
She said the counselling she received helped a little as she had needed to take sleeping pills to sleep at night.
Asked what she would say to Phasha should she be given an opportunity to talk to him, she said: “How many children do you have and you decided to kill all my children. I will never forgive you. Even if you die I will never come to your funeral. Why did you decide to kill my children?”
Defence advocate Lawrence Mkhize put it to Monyela that Phasha did not kill the children.
“The possibility is that the rival royal faction against Phasha could have done that to hurt Phasha.”
But Monyela responded: “I am Monyela, not Phasha and [am] not aware of the fight between the two factions. Why did he run away from police after he committed the heinous crime if he knew it was not him? Why did he take my children away from me forcefully?”
Phasha was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment in 2002 after he attempted to shoot his ex-girlfriend but the stray bullet hit and killed a teenager. He was struck off the legal practice roll as an attorney.
He spent six years behind bars and was released on parole in 2008.