Ac­claimed artist jailed for 18 years for sex worker’s mur­der

‘Gen­der-based vi­o­lence won’t be tol­er­ated’

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - CATHER­INE RICE

SEX work­ers cheered in the pub­lic gallery as West­ern Cape High Court Judge Pa­tri­cia Go­liath sen­tenced in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed artist Zwelethu Mthethwa to 18 years be­hind bars for the 2013 mur­der of 23-year-old sex worker, Nokhupila Ku­malo.

In im­pos­ing more than the min­i­mum sen­tence of 15 years, Judge Go­liath said this would send a mes­sage that “vi­o­lence against women will not be tol­er­ated”.

De­scrib­ing the mur­der as “hor­rific”, she said Mthethwa had as­saulted a de­fence­less woman. “That the at­tack was un­pro­voked” and the fact that she was a sex worker “had mul­ti­plied her vul­ner­a­bil­ity”.

Judge Go­liath said Mthethwa could be seen on CCTV footage that cap­tured the at­tack in Raven­scraig Road in Wood­stock on April 14, 2013 kick­ing his vic­tim “more than 60 times”. “Her liver was vir­tu­ally torn in half.”

As a first-time of­fender, Mthethwa faced a min­i­mum sen­tence of 15 years, but Judge Go­liath said in this case, the ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tors out­weighed the mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors, and sub­stan­tial and com­pelling cir­cum­stances could not be found to de­vi­ate from the min­i­mum sen­tence and im­pose less than that. In fact, a more se­vere sen­tence was “just and fair”, she added.

“With re­gard to the in­ter­ests of so­ci­ety, we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing high lev­els of vi­o­lent crime against women and chil­dren. Where crime is prevalent in so­ci­ety, a se­vere sen­tence may be jus­ti­fied in or­der to act as a de­ter­rent to oth­ers.

“The in­ter­ests of so­ci­ety de­mand that of­fend­ers of se­ri­ous crime be de­ter­rently sen­tenced. If of­fend­ers are pun­ished too lightly, the re­spect so­ci­ety has for law and or­der would be un­der­mined.”

Judge Go­liath re­ferred to the tes­ti­mony of two ex­perts, Anne Ca­wood and Mar­tin Yu­daiken, who had both told the court that Mthethwa did not have a pre­dis­po­si­tion to­wards vi­o­lence, but had a great deal of love and re­spect for women, dis­played in his art­work.

Both ex­pressed their be­lief that crim­i­nal­ity did not form the fab­ric of his char­ac­ter and be­lieved he would be un­likely to of­fend again. But Go­liath said the fact that he had kicked a de­fence­less sex worker more than 60 times, had paused dur­ing the at­tack, and then elected to con­tinue was “in­dica­tive of his lack of re­spect for her bod­ily dig­nity”.

“The ac­cused elected not to re­veal the rea­sons for his rage. The ex­perts did not in­ves­ti­gate all lay­ers of the ac­cused and merely stated that he acted out of char­ac­ter. The ques­tion that has not been an­swered to date is what went wrong?”

Judge Go­liath dis­missed Mthethwa’s sug­ges­tions that al­co­hol had been the rea­son for his lack of re­call­ing the in­ci­dent. “The footage clearly shows that the per­pe­tra­tor was not un­der the in­flu­ence. The introduction of the in­volve­ment of al­co­hol was aimed at de­ceiv­ing the court.

“The ac­cused lacks an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the se­ri­ous­ness of the of­fence.”

She said he had shown a “fla­grant dis­re­gard for the sanc­tity of life”. “The ac­cused’s stand­ing as an ac­claimed artist does not earn him a spe­cial sen­tence. This is the type of case where em­pha­sis should fall on de­ter­rence.

“The court needs to send a clear mes­sage to the com­mu­nity and all would-be crim­i­nals that gen­der-based vi­o­lence will not be tol­er­ated.”

Out­side court, sex work­ers sang and danced in cel­e­bra­tion. Sex Work­ers Ed­u­ca­tion and Ad­vo­cacy Task­force spokesper­son Nosipho Vidima said it sent a mes­sage to would-be per­pe­tra­tors that the jus­tice sys­tem would not tol­er­ate vi­o­lence to­wards sex work­ers.

“We hope this judg­ment be­comes a prece­dent for all the other cases where sex work­ers have been mur­dered.” – ANA

PIC­TURE: ADRIAN DE KOCK

PUN­ISHED: Zwelethu Mthethwa kicked a sex worker more than 60 times and showed his dis­re­gard for her life.

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