Life plus 15 years’ imprisonment for taxi driver’s killer, accomplices still at large

2015-06-22 14:09
Mlungisi Dlamini in court on Friday.

Mlungisi Dlamini in court on Friday. (Ingrid Oellermann)

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JIKA Joe resident Mlungisi Dlamini (29) might have ­gotten away with murder if he had not fallen asleep and crashed the taxi he and his accomplices hijacked from ­visiting taxi driver Philasande Zwane (32) on May 30.

Dlamini, who broke both his legs in the crash near ­Estcourt, was trapped in the taxi and it was only a matter of time before police pieced together the puzzle and arrested him for Zwane’s murder.

On Friday, Judge Kate Pillay sentenced Dlamini to life plus 15 years’ imprisonment for his role in Zwane’s “cruel” murder.

Dlamini — who was brought to court on crutches, with both his lower legs still encased in plaster — pleaded guilty to the charges.

In a statement he described how he and his three accomplices had overpowered Zwane (from Dundee) as he sat sleeping in his taxi in East Street at about 1 am.

They snuck into the vehicle after managing to open the sliding door, overpowered Zwane and pulled him to the back. There he was stabbed three times until he offered no resistance.

The assailants drove to a sugar cane plantation at Copesville where they decided he had to be killed to prevent him from identifying them in future. Dlamini took a knife and slit his throat.

Addressing the court about the brutality of the attack, state advocate Candy Kander said Dlamini had quite literally been slaughtered like an animal, and his body dumped like trash.

Dlamini said he and his accomplices, who he identified as “Sanele, Siya and Small”, shared an amount of R800 cash they took from Zwane. One of the group kept his cellphone.

While two of the gang returned home to Jika Joe after the murder, Dlamini and Sanele drove to Estcourt with the intention of selling the Toyota Hiace taxi “for R15 000”.

“Along the way I fell asleep and the taxi crashed into a tree. Both my legs were broken and I was taken to the hospital at Estcourt for treatment, where I was arrested,” said Dlamini.

He said Sanele fled after the taxi crashed, and all the other co-perpetrators are still at large.

Both Kander and Dlamini’s Legal Aid lawyer, Ishi Khan, urged Judge Pillay to consider whether the fact that Dlamini had pleaded guilty and was willing to help the state track down and prosecute the other assailants could save him from the mandatory minimum life sentence.

But the judge said in her view any mitigating facts paled into insignificance having regard to the gratuitous violence and wanton cruelty that accompanied the murder. The most appropriate sentence for his crimes was life imprisonment, she said.

She said the violence inflicted on Zwane was totally unnecessary. He had been asleep, offered no resistance and the four assailants could easily have overpowered him and simply pushed him out of his vehicle and driven away.

She said Dlamini’s motive for helping the state was to obtain a reduced sentence, and once he succeeded there was no guarantee he would keep his promise.

If he was truly remorseful he could still assist the police to trace his co-perpetrators and this could be taken into account by a parole board in the future, she said.

She said Dlamini’s record of previous convictions showed his crimes had gotten worse and that sentences previously imposed had had no effect on him.

Zwane leaves behind five young children and a girlfriend who is pregnant. Members of Zwane’s family at court said they were satisfied with Dlamini’s sentence, but still distraught because nothing could bring him back

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