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After being sentenced in August 2010 to three years’ for killing two church-goers in a road collision, Durban businessman Sifiso Zulu was defiant and unrepentant outside court: “Why should I cry? I won’t go to jail. The case isn’t over.”
It was the same lack of remorse that struck Magistrate Thomas Nhleko, Judge Piet Koen and Acting Judge Themba Mjoli in presiding over the businessman’s culpable homicide trial after the intersection tragedy more than four years ago.
In spite of his conviction, Zulu kept up his web of lies, claiming he was not the driver of his BMW X5 on the night, and that the man who bolted from the wreckage that night was not him. He tried to lead the court a merry dance.
But, in the end, Nhleko called his version blatant lies.
And in the appeal, the judges agreed.
They commended the magistrate for not being fooled by Zulu’s deceit. It had been a well-reasoned judgment, they said. The case against Zulu had been overwhelming, and his version (though he never testified) was riddled with contradictions.
Two young women died in the other vehicle that night, and 12 were injured. Given the devastation this caused – and that Zulu had been drinking, ran off, lied so and tried to hoodwink the court – Zulu’s punishment was restrained.
It was appropriate, the judges said in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday, “if not lenient”. Two lives, a lot of pain, lingering dishonesty, and no remorse, point strongly to leniency.
But there is, perhaps, some consolation for those injured in the collision, and the families of those killed, in the absence of any apology: had the appeal judgment come just weeks earlier, Zulu may have become eligible for the government’s Freedom Day prisoner remission announcement, and may have spent only days in jail.
Maybe now it is time for Zulu’s tears.