Axe murderer gets 22 years

2009-05-20 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG acting high court judge Rose Mogwera yesterday sentenced 27-year-old Guqukani Mvelase to 22 years’ imprisonment for the “brutal and callous” axe murder of his stepmother, which she found was motivated by his belief that the victim had bewitched him.

The victim, Thuleleni Thabede, was hacked to death with an axe in front of her nine-year-old daughter. The little girl’s four-year-old sister was inside the house at the time.

The murder was committed on July 5, 2006 at Msinga.

Passing sentence, Mogwera said the murder had been “heinous”. “No human being deserves to die like the deceased in this case … Not even animals kill like the deceased was butchered.”

The judge said the murder also appeared to have been premeditated and said Mvelase had shown no remorse. She said two children had to witness the “merciless” killing of their mother.

However, she added that Mvelase comes from a rural background and is the type of person who holds “traditional beliefs” and believes in witchcraft. “It can be said that his behaviour was somehow influenced by those beliefs. There is authority that a genuine belief in witchcraft can be mitigating.”

The judge said it is in the interests of society that people like Mvelase be appropriately punished while at the same time recognising that they have “subjective beliefs” that might motivate their behaviour. “We have no other explanation for his [Mvelase’s] behaviour,” she added.

She found in the circumstances that Mvelase’s belief in witchcraft was a compelling and substantial circumstance justifying a lesser sentence than the prescribed minimum of life imprisonment.

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