Councillor's killers jailed for life

2012-04-03 20:19
Johannesburg - Three men convicted of killing Ekurhuleni councillor Godfrey Mbethe were sentenced to life imprisonment by the North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday.

Judge Peter Mabuse sentenced Vusimuzi Landford Twala, 37, Simphiwe Dennis Zwane, 51, and Christopher Mbatha, 39, to life imprisonment, even though his body had yet to be found.

They were sentenced to a further 40 years’ imprisonment for robbery and committing fraud with his bank card by buying clothing worth over R14 000 at Eastgate mall.

All sentences would run concurrently with their life sentences, Mabuse said.

Mbethe went missing after withdrawing R7 000 from a bank in Benoni on the morning of 22 July 22 2009.

Mabuse found there was sufficient evidence to presume Mbethe was dead and that the accused had been part of a syndicate who murdered him. There was no evidence showing how Mbethe had died, but this did not detract from the seriousness of the crime.

It could be speculated that Mbethe was kidnapped because the robbers did not want him to disappear before they had verified that the PIN number he had given them for his bank card was correct.

No closure

It was aggravating that the murder was committed during a robbery, and that there was no closure for Mbethe's family because they still did not know where his body was.

"I'm sure if you had dropped him at a strange place, he would have gone home. If you had only spared his life, the court would have met you halfway," Mabuse said.

The money the three men had taken from Mbethe would never be recovered. This meant they had left the councillor's family destitute and broken their hearts.

The State told the court the Ekurhuleni Municipality had spent between R600 000 and R700 000 trying to find Mbethe, and that many councillors had made personal contributions to his wife.

The court heard that Twala and Zwane each had nine children, and Mbatha three. Both Zwane and Mbatha had long lists of previous convictions.

Twala said he had sympathy with Mbethe's family and still hoped he would be found. Zwane testified that his health was failing as he had been diagnosed with HIV and high blood pressure.

All three swore they had nothing to do with Mbethe's murder, although Mbatha admitted stealing money and buying goods with Mbethe's bank account.

Mbethe's widow, Thelma Mbethe, sobbed while other people in the public gallery cheered and ululated after the sentences were passed.

Speaking outside the court, she said that until her husband's body was found, she would never find closure.

"I'm happy about the sentence, but the fact remains that I don't have a husband any more. I just want them to show us where his bones are at least, so that I can move on with my life. I'll never forgive them... They got what they deserved," she said.
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