Balfour – Convicted rapist Hermanus Senekal was handed a lengthy sentence from District judge Graham Cupido, in the district court at Secunda on Thursday 9 December.
Hermanus Senekal was convicted of sexual assault and rape in November 2021. Senekal was convicted of raping Natanya Pienaar when she was 6 years old at the creche that they owned in Balfour.
Hermanus Senekal was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
Miss Gibs appeared for the defendant Hermanus Senekal. The defence asked that the pre-sentencing report be scrapped. State prosecutor Tracy Keen-Horak did not oppose nor did the judge.
The defence acknowledged the guilty verdict as well as the prevalence of sexual assault and in particular rape in South Africa. Gibbs then argued that the advanced age of Hermanus Senekal, 81 years and 8 months, should be taken into consideration as well as the fact that his health is also deteriorating. The defence also complained about the lack of possible medical care for Senekal while he is in jail. In his sentencing, Judge Cupido said that there was no evidence that supports these claims nor is there any evidence that Senekal is terminally ill.
Senekal’s defence lawyer suggested that when all these factors were taken into account a lesser sentence should be imposed than the described life sentence and pleaded for correctional supervision or house arrest.
The state was then given to argue their view on an appropriate sentence for Hermanus Senekal. Tracy Keen-Horak then called the mother of Natanya Pienaar, who was the victim, to make a statement.
Jenny Pienaar read a moving and emotional statement asking for a hefty sentence. “He showed no remorse,” said Jenny to the Bulletin, “We have forgiven him but we are convinced that he should receive an appropriate sentence.”
Jenny wrote the plea in Afrikaans and read it to the court. While she was reading the plea her husband Johan struggled to keep his emotions under control and could be heard sobbing on several occasions. This family had suffered a lot in the past 17 years and even more so now that Natanya is a little older.
Jenny shared her plea with the Bulletin and we place the plea below (translated into English)
I stand here today and am sincerely grateful for the opportunity to address you about the effect and consequences of the old principal’s heinous acts on my child, not only on her but on us as a family.
Section 110 of the Children’s Act places an obligation on certain professionals, including medical and legal practitioners, teachers and ministers, to report child abuse. The convicted criminal took it a step further and not only failed to report it but indeed he himself, sexually and physically abused my child.
All children have the right to be protected from abuse which includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, abuse or humiliation, this includes my daughter, Natanya. The convicted criminal physically injured her when he tied her hands behind her back and tied her feet. He sexually abused her when he raped her as a 6-year-old girl.
He abused her for his own enjoyment without considering her humanity, what harm it did to her, what trauma and humiliation it was for my daughter, or simply her very young age. He neglected her for these reasons and did not ensure that she was protected and safe. He even took it a step further by threatening to do it again if she asked for help or told someone.
All children have the right to human dignity, respect and safety. The convicted criminal had no respect for my daughter when he did what he was convicted of. On the contrary, he humiliated her and deprived her of her right to feel safe in a daycare centre where she was supposed to be safe.
All children have the right to privacy, the convicted criminal took her privacy away from her when he, as an elderly man of 64 years, lured her, at the age of 6 years, away from everyone, locked her in a pink room and raped her.
Various legislation imposes an obligation on the state to provide the necessary infrastructure in order to comply with children’s rights. I believe this is the structure we have experienced in this court for the past 7 years. I also believe that this court is not only fair and equitable but will also consider all aspects when sentencing.
I respectfully ask that you make no concession to the sentence you are giving the convicted criminal by looking at his age. The convicted criminal was already a 64-year-old man when he raped my daughter, he did not take her young age of 6 into account when he raped her. He did not take into account that she, as a toddler, was still a virgin, no, he came to take it violently from her. He did not take into account that he had come to steal what she wanted to give to her husband as a young woman one day.
He did not take into account that she was not, physically, mentally or emotionally ready for what he had done to her. He did not take into account the years of trauma and anxiety she had to contend with. He did not take into account the 5 times she wanted to take her own life. He did not take into account the many times we had to drive to a hospital or emergency services and did not know if my child would still be alive or recovering. He did not take into account the sleepless nights we had to sit next to a hospital bed.
He did not take into account the powerlessness and helplessness with which we had to constantly struggle. He did not take into account the skewed looks we had to endure. He did not take into account the hours my husband and I had to spend with our employers to look after our daughter and take care of her. He did not take into account the anxiety and uncertainty when I was on my way to pick up or assist my daughter after an anxiety attack at school or her job.
He did not take into account the humiliation of having an anxiety attack in front of a school of 1,200 children and the months of mockery thereafter. He did not take into account that with his selfish actions by doing what he did to my child, he came to change her and our whole life in the blink of an eye.
Natanya never had the benefit of asking for an adjournment, or of asking that the awful situation she was in be first evaluated, that a report be compiled. NO he was the proverbial prosecutor and the magistrate. And he single-handedly gave her the heaviest punishment imaginable for any woman, let alone an innocent 6-year-old girl.
The convicted criminal has to date never shown remorse for what this court found him guilty of, nor has he ever acknowledged his actions and share. On the contrary, he maintains his innocence, even though the contrary has been proved in this court. He has also never apologised to my daughter, Natanya or us as parents. He also never said that he was sorry for his actions or gave an explanation as to why he could do what this court found him guilty of, and especially as an elderly adult man with a 6-year-old daughter.
I would have sympathy and respect for him if he could give an explanation for his horrible deeds and admit it, but he persists in his innocence and even after this court found him guilty said that “one day there will be right and be justice ”. I agree with your statement and know that day is today.
I believe in the law of nature that says: You reap what you sow. Today is one of your harvest days. The convicted criminal must reap what he has sown. He has sown grief, violence, trauma, anxiety, humiliation and abuse and can not expect anything other than that in his harvest back. Everyone has the right to do what you want, but you are not immune to the consequences of your actions.
Although we as a family have forgiven the convicted criminal, it does not indemnify him for the heaviest punishment the law allows this court to punish him with. Instead, we respectfully ask that this court will sentence the convicted criminal with the heaviest possible punishment. He deserve nothing less, even if it means he has to spend the rest of his life in prison. There where he can never again lay his horrible hands on any innocent child.
State prosecutor Tracy argued for the maximum sentence stating that Hermanus knew what he did, he was already of advanced age and that he showed no remorse. She argued that both Hermanus and his previous legal representatives chose to rather subject the victim to cross-examination in open court for several years. This can only be seen as punishing the victim again.
Judge Cupido said at the beginning of the judgement that “this part is the most difficult for me as you cannot please everybody. I have, however, a duty to fulfil without fear or favour.”
Judge Cupido continued to recap the guilty verdict and pointed out that on the charge of sexual assault (count one) there are no prescribed minimum sentences but on the charge of rape (count two) there is a prescribed minimum sentence of life imprisonment.
There are, however, several factors that need to be considered when deciding on a justified sentence. Factors such as the crime committed, the circumstances surrounding the crime, the interest of society and the interest of the defendant. Also, the aim of the punishment and the possible mercy factor.
The sentence was long and thorough with several references to other cases. The judge referred to the fact that the Victim was only 6 years old at the time of her being raped. He also made mention that the age of Hermanus when he committed the crime was 64 years. Judge Cupido eluded that Hermanus misused his position of authority to intimidate the victim.
Judge Cupido also said that Senekal took away several rights from the victim when he locked her in a room and raped her. Although the physical scars healed the emotional scars never will.
During the sentencing, Judge Cupido also used the case of Bob Hewit that was also of advanced age at the time of his sentencing.
“I believe that direct imprisonment is the appropriate sentence for the crimes.” Said, Judge Cupido
The sentence for the sexual assault is 4 years imprisonment and the sentence for the rape is 15 years imprisonment. Both would be running concurrently.
“We are very happy with the sentence,” said Johan and Jennie Pienaar, parents of the victim Natanya Pienaar, “ he will stay in jail until the end of his life.”