Youths killed their granny

2007-11-22 00:00

Three young men from rural Mtubatuba were each sentenced to 17 years' imprisonment yesterday for shooting dead their 77-year-old grandmother, whom they suspected of practising witchcraft.

The court accepted the youths' belief in witchcraft as a mitigating factor, which saved them from a prescribed sentence of life imprisonment.

Florence Mbuyazi was killed in her home at Nkolokotho while she slept on November 9.

Her grandsons - Sibonelo Dladla (20), Sandile Ncube (20) and Ceba Ncube (19) - handed themselves over to police three days after the killing and pleaded guilty in the high court before Judge Chris Nicholson.

Dladla said in a statement that about a week before the murder he and his cousins planned the killing. “We embarked upon this plan because we believed that the deceased was practising witchcraft and that she used muthi to kill several members of my family, including my cousins and my uncle … I and my entire family are believers of witchcraft,” he said.

The trio believed that a cousin, Xolani, was Mbuyazi's last victim as they had been told by “several witchdoctors” that she caused his illness.

They used a home-made firearm that belonged to Xolani to commit the killing.

Dladla admitted he shot Mbuyazi once in the face. His co-accused gave the same version.

Judge Nicholson said he accepted that the accused believed in witchcraft and that they believed Mbuyazi was harming the family. The fact that they handed themselves over to police indicated they realised that what they had done was wrong.

The judge said the accused's counsel, Ishi Khan, “aptly” referred to them as “victims of their social environment”, referring to their belief in witchcraft. This is accepted by courts as a mitigating factor.

The judge said as young people the three accused are capable of reform, and hopefully this will include a realisation that a belief in witchcraft is anti-social and disrespectful. “Hopefully the new era in South Africa will usher in changes in that regard,” he added.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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