Cape Town -
The four men convicted for the murder of Constable Xoliswa Banga two years ago were each given life sentences for her murder on Wednesday, as well as a further collective total of 84 years behind bars.
In her stern judgment, Judge Roseni Allie said that the prescribed minimum sentence of life imprisonment seemed “lenient” considering the crime they had committed.
Abongile Damente, brothers Onke and Odwa Mthwalo, and Mandilakhe Mbali were on trial for Banga’s murder.
Banga was murdered on March 2, 2012.
It was the State’s case that Damente and Mbali fired shots at 36-year-old Banga, who was driving a police car on her way back to Philippi East police station.
According to witness testimony, Damente, who was 17 at the time, went up to the car and demanded Banga’s gun.
When the men realised she was unarmed, Damente shot her in the chest. Banga died on her way to hospital.
She was living with her 9-year-old daughter at the time.
The four were arrested in December 2012.
Damente received a life sentence for the murder and an additional 30 years for the remaining charges including attempted murder.
The Mtwalo brothers and Mbali each received life for the murder and 18 years for their roles in the incident. None of these sentences will run concurrently.
In February, they were also found guilty of several additional charges, including attempted murder, attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Judge Allie referred to the men, especially Damente, as “callous” in their execution of the crime.
“(Damente) and (Mbali) didn’t flinch at the plan to shoot the constable.
“(It) shows their callous disregard for the life of a human being and that of a police officer tasked with protecting their families and the community.
“(Damente) acted as an adult by assuming the responsibility of the gun and firing additional shots at an innocent bystander,” she said.
Allie said throughout the trial, none of the accused showed any remorse or regret.
“They acted in a way that they didn’t show any respect for the fact that the deceased was a police officer performing her duties.
“When weighing the aggravating circumstances against the mitigating factors, the prescribed minimum sentence of life imprisonment seems lenient,” she said
Outside court, Banga’s family friend, Masentle Mokoena, said while they knew the sentence would not bring Banga back, they were happy that justice had been served.
“We are quite happy with what they got because now we can try and come to terms with her death.
“Her daughter and mother are also still emotional about the incident.
“(The men) got what they deserved,” she said.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Eric Ntabazalila said the sentences sent out a clear message that the killing of police officers will not be tolerated by the courts.
“Whenever a police officer is killed, society is robbed of a protector.
“Society needs to be protected from marauding gangs who break the law with impunity,” he said.