Former Msunduzi traffic official Sifiso Hlengwa was on Tuesday found guilty of the murder of his boss, Phumla Dlamini.
Pietermaritzburg regional court magistrate Bemal Jaynarayan found that on January 14, 2016, Hlengwa killed Dlamini at the municipality’s traffic department headquarters in Washington Road. This was because Hlengwa believed that Dlamini was responsible for him being removed as the acting head of armoury.
Dlamini’s wife Miranda on Tuesday gave heart-wrenching testimony about how the death of her husband has affected her, their child and four step-children. She was testifying in aggravation of sentencing.
In a quavering voice, she said her daughter who was 13 years old then, has been struggling at school since her father’s death because of psychological problems. She now has to attend a special school. As for herself, “A part of me is gone,” she said.
She had to apply for a senior position because she could not manage financially without her husband’s salary, and had to relocate to Johannesburg. This disrupted the family’s lives.
Dlamini added it came as a blow when Hlengwa was the one arrested because she and her daughter had trusted him and he was a family friend. He used to sometimes fetch her daughter from school.
The minimum sentence that applies in this case is 15 years’ imprisonment. However, state prosecutor Oscar Sokhela has urged the magistrate to hand Hlengwa an extra five years.
Sokhela said that in light of Dlamini and Hlengwa’s existing relationship, the latter could have discussed his removal as head of armoury.
“His [Hlengwa’s] actions can’t be reasonably explained … his actions were appalling, brazen and demand a strong sentence,” said Sokhela.
He added there was no question that Hlengwa intended to kill Dlamini, because he shot him “not once, not twice, not thrice but five times”.
“The shooting took place in broad daylight ... the accused showed no mercy, he persists in his innocence so why should the court show mercy on him,” said Sokhela.
Hlengwa’s attorney placed his personal circumstances and the fact that this is his first “brush with the law” as reasons why the court should impose a sentence less than 15 years’ imprisonment.
In his judgment, Jaynarayan said the state proved that Dlamini sustained five gunshot wounds, one in the head and four in the abdomen.
Jaynarayan said it was proved that the gunshots came from Hlengwa’s firearm.
Earlier on the day of his murder, Dlamini had delivered a letter from the then municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi terminating Hlengwa’s position as acting head of armoury. This meant a substantial decrease in his income.
“I am satisfied the state proved Hlengwa was angry and thought it was the deceased who removed him from the acting position,” said Jaynarayan.
It is highly improbable that Hlengwa would not have noticed that Dlamini was injured after Hlengwa had fired the five shots, he said.
Hlengwa had fled the scene after the shooting.
The magistrate said that the state proved that the exit wound found on the right side of Dlamini’s body showed that his skin was in contact with a hard surface when the bullet exited the body.
The bullet marks on the floor indicated that shots were fired in a downward position. These facts are inconsistent with Hlengwa’s version that they were both in a kneeling position when the shots were fired.
Jaynarayan said that the state witnesses were credible, honest and reliable. In stark contrast, Hlengwa was not an impressive witness.
“He was evasive and gave different versions of material aspects. He tried to deny he was angry with the deceased. When he received the letter he believed that the deceased was responsible for terminating his services in the armoury. He did not realise that Nkosi terminated his services and not Dlamini. He also fled the scene after the shooting,” said Jaynarayan.
Sentencing takes place on Wednesday.