Durban - A 23-year-old Mayville man stood smiling in the dock after he had been sentenced to 22 years in jail for killing two people on board a municipal bus in May last year.
Bongani Moses Khumalo continued to smile and spoke animatedly as he waited to be taken back into the holding cells at the Durban High Court on Thursday.
The family of the two deceased, Thandazile Machi and Sibusiso Msomi, felt Khumalo should have been given a life sentence and said he showed no remorse for his actions.
Khumalo had pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, but pleaded not guilty to the double murder, claiming he did not intend to shoot Machi, whom he claimed was his girlfriend, and that he shot Msomi in self defence.
Judge Sharmaine Bolton found Khumalo guilty on all counts on Wednesday.
On Thursday, she sentenced him to 20 years for Machi’s murder, 22 years for Msomi’s murder, five years for unlawful possession of a firearm and two years for unlawful possession of ammunition.
The sentences would run concurrently with the 22-year prison sentence.
In May last year, Khumalo said he had boarded a municipal bus on his way home from work before Machi and Msomi boarded the same bus.
He testified to seeing them kissing at the bus stop. Khumalo said he was surprised because Machi was his girlfriend.
While the bus was travelling along Sparks Road, in Overport, he asked Machi about the relationship she had with Msomi, and Machi “frantically denied” any relationship.
He said he then asked Msomi, who became “confrontational and agitated”.
He said an altercation ensued and Msomi grabbed his black bag.
Khumalo had testified earlier, saying he knew Msomi had a firearm and assumed he had it with him.
Judge Bolton rejected this explanation, saying that Khumalo was unable to demonstrate to the court that Msomi had a firearm, was a threat or presented an imminent danger to him.
Khumalo said he took out his 7.65mm semi-automatic pistol and fired at Msomi. This shot, he said, hit Machi instead. He fired again and hit Msomi with the second shot.
When he jumped off the bus and fled, some of the passengers on the bus and members of the public chased after and caught him.
According to the State, Machi ended her relationship with Khumalo in March 2012 and Khumalo found it difficult to come to terms with this.
The investigating officer, Warrant Officer Krishna Naidoo, said three bullets were recovered after the shooting, one in the bus and one from each of the deceased’s bodies.
Machi died of a gunshot wound to the chest and Msomi died of a gunshot wound on the left side of his neck. The bullet entered his chest.
During her judgment on Wednesday, Judge Bolton said she found Khumalo to be an unimpressive witness and that he was unable to satisfy the court that his actions were reasonable or legitimate in the circumstances.
“He reacted on (an) assumption. The action taken was excessive in that he could have tried to dispossess (Msomi) of his bag or assault him. He chose instead to use his firearm, not once, but thrice,” read the judgment.
Khumalo’s version that he did not intend to shoot at Machi was rejected.
During sentencing on Thursday, Judge Bolton told Khumalo he had deprived Msomi’s fiancée, Balulike Ntuli, of a life partner and their three children of their father.
Msomi’s half brother, Muzi Ndlovu, said outside court that Msomi’s eldest child matriculated last year despite having to deal with the loss of his father.
“As Sibusiso was the breadwinner of the family, his son is sitting at home now because he cannot afford to go to university,” said Nlovu.
Judge Bolton said Khumalo had killed two innocent people who were in their prime of their lives.
“From your version, it would appear that your actions were motivated by jealousy. Your actions were drastic and cannot be condoned in any manner whatsoever. To condone this behaviour, the court would be sending a wrong message to like-minded offenders,” she said.
Machi’s mother, Ntombifuthi, and Ndlovu were both unhappy with the sentence.
“It feels like my daughter died for nothing,” Machi said.
Ndlovu said Msomi and Ntuli were to have marred this year.