32 Years behind bars for a life terminated?

I shuddered at what the value of human life has become in our society as I watched the news bulletin during which the judge sentenced Sandile Mantsoe, a pervert that killed his girlfriend Karabo Mokoena last year. This is one case where the accused was proved to have committed the offence. All needed facts and shreds of evidence were on ground to back it up, yet the lad walked away with a sentence of 32 years, just because the murder wasn’t premeditated. The laws backing these sorts of judgements need to be redrafted, else deviants will continue to murder people at will.

Oscar Pretorius case is still fresh on our minds. If not for the public outcry that greeted the initial sentencing of six years which then prompted an appeal by the state, the sportsman wouldn’t have gotten the 13-year jail stay. Here is another case where a promising young lady is killed in cold blood.  How many of these sorts of killings are we going to continue to condone?

Karabo’s parents nurtured her to adulthood, but the young lady is no more – courtesy of the warped decision of Mantsoe to kill her for whatever reason. After committing the crime for which he showed no remorse, he attempted to shield it before the law. Thirty-two years behind bars (for a lost life?) is all he got. Not even a life sentence or a sentence that will wipe such a person away from terra firma? It heartened that the judge called him a ‘devil in disguise’. But, sadly, the law allows devil’s lives to be spared at the expense of regular humans. What assurance do they have that the devil won’t continue his onslaught behind bars?

The look on Mantsoe’s face while listening to the sentence left much distaste in the mouth. No guilt or shame on the crime, no pains of any kind or even retrospection, as if he’d expected such a mild ruling. The guy will have the opportunity of being alive for the next 32 years. He has the opportunity of furthering his studies, eating government food for free and enjoying the benefit of being called a human. The possibility exists that he might escape the prison yard. What if in future a new South African president assumes office and declares general amnesty on prisoners that have served ten years? Or a natural disaster engenders a prison break and Mantsoe escapes jail? Or he conjures some soberness that will allow him a parole to rejoin the society? Will he not then be returning to his normal life thereby evading justice? Meanwhile, Karabo’s parents will mourn their daughter’s death forever.

This brings to mind the not-too-recent case of the musician who sent a couple of kids to their untimely death while drag-racing with his friends. Today he’s back to his family and even working on rebuilding his career.  The parents of those kids bite their fingers in pain; they are forced to regret sending their kids to school. Just like Reeva Steenkamp’s parents rue the death of their only daughter when Oscar cut her life short.

If human lives (especially women) are declining in value, cold-blood murders will increase. Domestic violence won’t cease and perpetrators will continue to mock the law.

As if to confirm this, just when we’re recovering from the shock of Mantsoe’s mild sentence, another blood-thirsty fellow named Nzozo is arraigned in a Durban magistrate court for a similar crime of shooting his girlfriend (Zolile Khumalo) in her hostel, using an unlicensed gun. Students of the Mangosuthu University of Technology who witnessed the incident escorted him to court to attest to the crime. The lout even had the temerity to smile and chuckle as the allegations were laid before him. His gleeful looks and nonchalance were a mockery of the law that brought him there. Kids watching the TV would get the impression that murder cases weren’t serious. The maniac was aware he would walk away with a pat on the wrist. Precedents abound on that.  Yet these are a few of hundreds of murder incidences reported weekly. Many go unreported, undetected.

Little wonder three of South Africa’s cities feature in the top 50 countries with highest murder rates. Human life is fast losing its value here.  The number of people dying every day in this country, owing to domestic violence or criminality, triples the figures in some war-torn or terrorists-invaded countries.

To mete out stiffer punishments to murderers is to deter others from committing such crimes. A man or woman will think twice before killing someone if they know they won’t survive it. Seeing men that stab or shoot their partners and get scolded mildly will only breed new offenders. We have enough statistics to prove that.  And the society has enough problems to guarantee an upsurge.

Sadly, Karabo Mokoena is no more and her parents are made to mourn her for life. They clapped at the 32-year jail sentence handed to Mantsoe, but will they cope seeing him walk free when he’s eventually released at 55. He’ll be then given the chance to live again.  He’ll be allowed to dream again.

Those in charge of the laws should have a rethink.  Their leniency is spurring the increasing murder rates in the society.

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