‘Atrocious’ murder of student deserves retribution – judge
A DURBAN High Court judge, while handing down sentence, described the murder of Mangosuthu University of Technology student Xolile Mbatha as atrocious, brutal, and an act that deserved retribution.
Mbatha had 41 deep incisions to her body after Bongani Sanele Mlambo stabbed her multiple times.
Judge Sharmaine Balton said in court on Friday that a sentence that was just and equitable – where the elements of mercy and leniency were not overlooked, but reflected on – had to be imposed. She sentenced Mlambo to 22 years’ imprisonment.
Mbatha was killed at the Ark Royal student residence on Mahatma Gandhi Road in Durban in July last year.
The two had been in a relationship since 2018, and in 2021 problems arose when Mlambo found text messages on Mbatha’s phone from a fellow church congregant proposing love.
After Mlambo confronted the man about this, he promised that the messaging would stop.
However, his communications persisted, and Mlambo reported the matter to church elders, who intervened and held a meeting where the man promised the messaging would stop.
In July last year, Mbatha told Mlambo that she was pregnant with twins. After this, Mbatha did not take his calls, and a few days later she contacted him and told him she had suffered a miscarriage.
On July 30, Mlambo went to check on Mbatha at Mangosuthu University of Technology’s outsourced residence. However, when he got there, Mbatha chased him away, telling him never to set foot there again.
The next day, Mlambo went back to his girlfriend’s student residence and found her in the bathroom, where an argument ensued. Mbatha told him to leave, whereupon Mlambo picked up a knife lying on top of a nearby table.
At some point, Mbatha took hold of the knife and stabbed Mlambo with it, which made him angry.
When he managed to regain possession of the knife, he stabbed her multiple times with it.
“In considering the interests of justice, the crime committed determines that the accused be removed from society for a long time, as he is someone with no care for life. The court needs to protect society and also deter like-minded people in imposing the sentence,” said Judge Balton.
Although Mlambo had stated in his guilty plea that he was remorseful, the nature of his actions and the manner in which he had killed Mbatha did not allow for leniency to be shown in the sentence, she said.
“The death has affected her family, more especially her daughter, who is still waiting for her mother to return home.”
During sentencing, Judge Balton had the victim impact statement made by Mbatha’s father read out. In it, he said that his 4-year-old granddaughter constantly asked when the family would be fetching her mother from Durban.
“The post-mortem reports confirmed the deceased’s injuries, which were severe, and paint a picture of someone who went on a rampage, stabbing the deceased with much force and intensity,” Judge Balton said.
The post-mortem details the 41 deep incisions to Mbatha’s body. She was stabbed in the cheeks, the neck, the chest, and an upper limb. The largest laceration was 170mm deep.
Mbatha also suffered injuries to her liver and right kidney, and the report said she had suffered multiple incision wounds, penetrating injuries, and failed organs.
The State had argued that the murder was premeditated. However, Judge Balton said there was no evidence before the court that the accused had arrived at Mbatha’s place of residence armed with a weapon.
“The accused’s version indicates that he acted on the spur of the moment, grabbing a knife from a nearby table. In my view, his actions show a man who acted in an emotional rage. This was a crime where the accused acted emotionally violently.”
Reacting to the sentence outside the court, the chairperson of the EFF Student Command, Lindokuhle Nxumalo, said 22 years behind bars for Mlambo was nothing compared with the lifelong trauma the family have to suffered.
He said he had expected Mlambo to get life because he had stabbed Mbatha repeatedly. Nxumalo felt that the institution, the country and the justice system did not take the issue of gender-based violence seriously.
“This is not the first time this has happened at a MUT residency. Our sisters are not safe. Being given 22 years as a sentence means that he is likely to spend 11 years behind bars and could be eligible for parole after seven years,” Nxumalo said. Whatsapp your views on this story to 071 485 7995