Sentences in spotlight

2016-11-30 06:00
Mojabeng Lebatla Photo: Supplied

Mojabeng Lebatla Photo: Supplied

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Efforts to root out gender violence and getting justice for victims against perpetrators will be under the spotlight during the 16 Days of Activism of No Violence against Women and Children campaign. Held annually and globally, the anti-gender violence campaign runs from 25 November to 10 December.

This also coincides with International Human Rights Day on 10 December. The theme for South Africa this year is “Count me in: Together moving a non-violent South Africa forward”.

The extent to which courts are the means of achieving justice for the victims is often measured by the sentencing of the perpetrators.

Since the victims are powerless in defending themselves, they depend entirely on the courts for getting justice and protecting their rights by sentencing perpetrators harshly. However, the public’s efforts to demand justice and protection of the rights of the victims (some who have lost their lives), which also include public protests and opposing the granting of bail to perpetrators, to some extent seems to have had no influence on sentences meted out by courts.

The sentencing of Mkhombeni Buthelezi (50) to six years for the death of Mojabeng Martha Leba­tla (37) of Thabong in Welkom is an example of sentencing that does not seem to fit the crime.

The accused, who has a 10-year-old daughter with the deceased, was sentenced in June this year by the Welkom Magistrate’s Court after being found guilty on a charge of murder.

The court suspended three years of the sentence for five years, despite public protests during the trial demanding harsh punishment.

Lebatla reportedly died as a result of severe internal and head injuries sustained during a brutal beating by Buthelezi.

The incident occurred on 29 December last year and reportedly happened in full view of the victim’s two minor children. Lebatla died on 2 January this year at the Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein.

She was first admitted to the Bongani Regional Hospital in Welkom and then transferred to the Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein before being admitted to the Universitas Academic Hospital.

Two recent cases that show the extent to which the courts deal with the scourge of gender violence are those involving the deaths of of Sarah Thomas (28) of Wepener and Refilwe Nketoane (32) of Ficksburg.

The two victims died nine days apart following alleged severe beatings by their partners.

Sgt Yanga Ngcukana, police spokesperson, said on-duty police members arrived at the scene to find Thomas already dead. Her naked body with visible bruises was found in a pool of blood outside a house.

The victim’s husband, Selly (32), reappeared in the Wepener Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday (29/11) to re-apply for bail after it was turned down last Tuesday (22/11).

Captain Phumelelo Dhlamini, spokesperson for the Ficksburg cluster, said Nketoane was certified dead by paramedics who found her in the bedroom. He said the suspect phoned the paramedics after unsuccessful attempts to wake the victim up.

Lerato Kapa, chief director of communication of the Free State department of social development, said progress has been made to make women and families aware that they can report incidents of family violence and utilise the services of the department to support victims and to provide safe shelter to them.

“The 2015-’16 statistics show that the number of victims placed in shelters and safe houses was 299. About 4 949 victims received services from Tshepong Victim Support Centre in Bloemfontein with 10 524 serviced at department-funded Victims Empowerment Programmes (VEPs),” said Kapa.

She said according to the latest statistics, 176 victims placed in shelters and safe house received services with 1 419 serviced at the Tshepong Victim Support Centre.

Kapa said furthermore that 3 256 received services from the department-funded VEPs.

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