2 Nigerian Brothel Operators Sentenced to Life for Human Trafficking and Rape: A Landmark Judgement

2 Nigerian Brothel Operators Sentenced to Life for Human Trafficking and Rape: A Landmark Judgement

  • The Pretoria High Court sentenced Jude Ikenna Ijegulu to four life terms plus 18 years for human trafficking and rape, and his accomplice, Elizabeth Botes, received 40 years
  • They ran a brothel in Centurion, forcing trafficked women into prostitution and drug abuse
  • The victims' testimonies were pivotal in the case, leading to the harsh sentences and sparking public calls for stricter immigration laws and societal action against sex trafficking

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Reitumetse Makwea, a Briefly News current affairs journalist in Pretoria, South Africa, has covered local elections, policy changes, the State of the Nation Address and political news at The Citizen and Rekord Noweto for over five years.

Brothel owners found in Centurion
The Hawks addressed the human trafficking problem in Gauteng after they found undocumented foreigners in a Centurion home. Image: Wikus De Wet / Bloomberg.
Source: Getty Images

The Pretoria High Court has handed down four life sentences along with an additional 18 years imprisonment for his involvement in human trafficking and rape to Jude Ikenna Ijegulu.

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His accomplice, Elizabeth Botes, was sentenced to 40 years in prison, signalling a strong message against such heinous crimes in South Africa.

The case unfolded

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) disclosed the horrifying details of Ijegulu's and Botes' criminal activities.

The pair operated a brothel in Centurion, where they trafficked women, subjected them to drug abuse, and forced them into prostitution.

NPA spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana revealed that the victims were kept captive between November 2016 and September 2017, enduring repeated sexual assaults and physical abuse.

The victims' ordeal

According to IOL, the first victim, a 26-year-old woman, was fetched from Rustenburg and drugged by unknown Nigerian nationals before being brought to the brothel.

On their way, Ijegulu stopped at a friend’s house and r*ped her.

See the post on X below:

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In another incident, a 22-year-old woman was bought from another Nigerian national under the pretence of employment as a housekeeper but was instead forced into the brothel and abused.

Both women eventually managed to escape in September 2017 and found refuge with an NGO specialising in helping trafficked individuals.

Their testimonies were crucial in building the case against Ijegulu and Botes.

The court’s decision

During the trial, Ijegulu and Botes pleaded not guilty.

Ijegulu's defence argued for leniency, citing his status as a first offender and claiming that the victims were kept in a "homely environment."

Botes, on the other hand, claimed she was coerced into participating due to her drug addiction and trauma inflicted by Ijegulu.

However, Advocates Adina Van Deventer and Alicia Ross highlighted the absence of remorse from both accused.

They argued that Ijegulu manipulated and controlled the victims through drug dependency, while Botes actively participated in the exploitation, taking the earnings from the brothel's operations.

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Judge Porti Phalane concurred with the prosecution, emphasising the severity and cruelty of the crimes.

"Ijegulu not only violated the Human Trafficking Act but also enslaved the victims, subjecting them to unimaginable suffering."

She acknowledged Botes' coerced involvement but still imposed a substantial sentence.

South Africans call for stricter immigration laws

The sentencing has sparked significant public discourse.

@marangdream expressed outrage, stating:

"Trafficking women, drugging & forcing them into prostitution, then pleading for a light sentence on the basis that you ‘provided a homely environment’... Put them both in jail! STAT!"

@Nanization called for societal action against such businesses, emphasising the need to eliminate the demand for sex trafficking:

"To stop this kind of thing, we as South Africans must stop buying and supporting this kind of business. Stop buying makgošha so that this kind of business doesn't exist. They flourish because there is market."

@MdloziniSifiso says some SA women play a part in this:

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"I am sure he had a South African girlfriend assisting him in luring these young girls; phela, we live amongst Trojan horses who sacrifice us for the sake of love and expensive weave."

Hawks highlight human trafficking in Gauteng

Briefly News previously reported that the South African crime-fighting unit the Hawks shared a concerning warning for the public about the Gauteng area.

The crime-fighting unit identified Gauteng as a centre of human trafficking that they will pay attention to.

People thought it was harrowing to see the report, and many complained that human trafficking has been a big problem in the Gauteng province.

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Source: Briefly News

Reitumetse Makwea avatar

Reitumetse Makwea (Editor) Reitumetse Makwea is a Current Affairs journalist at Briefly News. She has a National diploma, Advanced diploma and Post-graduate diploma in Journalism from the Tshwane University of Technology. She first worked as a student journalist and freelancer for Caxton's Record Noweto and later joined The Citizen News, where she worked for a little over 3 years covering politics, environmental news, business, education, and health. Reitumetse joined Briefly News in 2024. Email: reitumetse.makwea@briefly.co.za