Seven life terms for massacre

2015-10-30 10:24
Thulani and Sibonelo Mncwabe, convicted of massacring eight members of their family, were sentenced to life in prison. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

Thulani and Sibonelo Mncwabe, convicted of massacring eight members of their family, were sentenced to life in prison. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Two brothers who massacred eight people in the belief that they were being bewitched, were handed seven life sentences plus 20 years’ imprisonment each on Thursday.

Judge Jacqueline Henriques sentenced Thulani, 28, and Sibonelo Mncwabe, 26, to 20 years’ imprisonment for the murder of their uncle, Mantinga Mncwabe, 72, who was the first victim to die in the massacre at Umzinto on the South Coast during the night of October 20.

The judge found that Mantinga was murdered because the brothers believed that he and his wife, Sibonisile, were practising witchcraft which was linked to the deaths of their siblings who died within months of one another.

They had feared that they would be next to die.

She also accepted in mitigation that they had pleaded guilty, were genuinely remorseful and had no prior criminal records.

She said courts had recently drawn a distinction between so-called “muthi killings”, and murders motivated by a belief in witchcraft, with muthi murders attracting heavier sentences.

The judge cited a number of cases where a belief in witchcraft had been accepted by courts as mitigating.

In respect of the other seven murders, however, the judge said the two killers had a different motive: stopping the victims from identifying them.

The seven were killed after Mantinga Mncwabe’s granddaughters, Nothando and Thobisile, ran to his burning hut in response to his cries for help and recognised their cousins, the brothers, as his killers.

They started shouting out the brothers’ names as they fled into another structure, closely followed by the accused.

Sibonelo stood guard at the door while Thulani went inside and “blindly yet lethally struck at all the people inside who attempted to approach him”.

Judge Henriques said she had a duty to ensure that justice was done in respect of these “innocent victims”, and to protect society.

She said the sentences should reflect society’s revulsion for those who readily resort to criminal conduct and take the law into their own hands. The sentences should also send a message that a high price would be exacted from anyone who resorted to murder in these circumstances.

She described the attack on the victims as brutal and callous. The post mortem showed that Mantinga Mncwabe’s charred body was without lower limbs. The cause of death was burns and “blunt force injuries”.

The other victims suffered multiple injuries, caused by a sharp instrument, to their heads and limbs.

The public gallery was packed with close to 100 people, while heavily armed police officers lined the walls in court.

After sentencing, members of the victims’ family left the courthouse rapidly, accompanied by police.

They were hurried to a waiting police vehicle in which they were to be transported back home.

One close relative, Nana Madondo, said they were “happy” with the sentences imposed on the killers. However, she added that the family believes that “people who instructed them” to carry out the massacre have not been arrested and fear that their own lives are still in danger.

KwaZulu-Natal’s director of public prosecutions Sophy Moipone-Noko said she was “very excited by the sentences” and was satisfied that justice was served in the case.

“The message that has been sent is loud and clear and these sentences will act as a deterrent to others,” she said.

Community Safety MEC Willies Mchunu also welcomed the sentences and said in a statement this was one of the most inhumane crimes committed against a family. He hoped the sentences would serve as a deterrent to others, he said.

The Inkatha Freedom Party also issued a statement expressing its satisfaction with the sentences.

They victims of the massacre were: Mantinga, 72, and his wife Sibonisile Mncwabe, 70, Phindile Mncwabe, 36, Nothando Mncwabe, 15, Thobisile Mncwabe, 12, Amahle Mhlongo, 3, Philasanda Mncwabe, 2, and Sonqoba Khomo, 1.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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