Judge: So much death for cellphones

2013-10-17 00:00

IT seems that people today are dying more because of cellphones than anything else, Pietermaritzburg high court Judge Rishi Seegobin said yesterday.

The judge made the comment when he sentenced Thembisizwe Sikhakhane (27), to 13 years’ imprisonment for the “heat of the moment” murder of an acquaintance, Nkosinathi Khanyile (41). Sikhakhane stabbed him at least 10 times with an Okapi knife following an argument over a cellphone.

Judge Seegobin said the killing was a sad reflection of the level to which society has sunk. He said it was not clear why people are being killed over cellphones, bearing in mind that they are easy and “relatively cheap” to acquire.

Sikhakhane pleaded guilty to the murder, which took place in the Weenen area.

In a statement prepared by attorney Kelvin Singh, he said that he and the victim — with whom he was on good terms — had met while attending a function where liquor was consumed.

During a conversation he had noticed that Khanyile had a Nokia X2 cell phone that contained music and asked him to lend it to him so that he could download music from it.

“I undertook to return it to him at a later stage,” he said.

He said Khanyile lent him the phone.

When he met Khanyile again later that night, Khanyile asked him if he was finished using his cellphone.

“I informed him that I was still downloading the music and would return the cellphone to him the following day once I have finished. However, the deceased became angry. He slapped me unexpectedly across my face. I retaliated and slapped him once across his face. A fight thereafter ensued in which we exchanged blows.”

Sikhakhane said that during the scuffle his “pocket knife” — which was an Okapi knife with a 15 cm long blade — fell and he picked it up.

Under the impression that Khanyile was going to remove a weapon from inside his jacket, he immediately stabbed him in “quick succession” in the chest. He fell to the ground bleeding and Sikhakhane fled. He was arrested the next day.

He said he felt “bad” about what he had done.

Judge Seegobin said he had regard when sentencing Sikhakhane to the “devastating” effect Khanyile’s death had on his fiancée and family.

However, he also took into account in Sikhakhane’s favour that he was a first offender, that the murder occurred in the heat of the moment, that alcohol contributed to his behaviour and that he had demonstrated a fair measure of remorse by co-operating with the police and pleading guilty.

He found these factors amounted to compelling and substantial circumstances that justified a lower sentence than the prescribed minimum of 15 years’ imprisonment for murder that is not premeditated.

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