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Pretoria - An HIV-positive mother who killed her four-year-old son by giving him Rattex mixed with yoghurt as she was down and out and without anyone to take care of her children has been given a lifeline with her 25-year jail sentence being drastically reduced.
Elizabeth Mazibuko was sentenced in the Nigel Regional Court in 2011, but she turned to the Pretoria High Court to appeal against the 25-year sentence.
Acting Judge Nicolene Janse van Nieuwenhuizen said the circumstances that gave rise to Mazibuko’s conviction were “extremely tragic”.
It was disconcerting that neither her lawyer nor the magistrate had asked for a social worker’s report before sentencing her, she said.
The judge reduced Mazibuko’s sentence to five years’ imprisonment in terms of section 276 (i) of the Criminal Procedure Act.
In terms of this section, Mazibuko must serve a sixth of her sentence before she is placed on parole. As she has been incarcerated since October 2011, she is to be released immediately.
The 27-year-old mother pleaded guilty to poisoning her son, leading to his death. She also swallowed poisoned yoghurt in an attempt to commit suicide. Mazibuko survived after being taken to hospital.
During her trial it emerged that Mazibuko lived with her boyfriend as her family had chased her away because of her HIV status.
They were hostile towards her, and her brother told her that should anything happen to her, he would want nothing to do with her children.
Her other two children had been removed from her care by social workers.
On the morning of the incident, Mazibuko did not feel well enough to go to work.
She suspected her condition was due to her HIV-status. She felt that it was the end of her life and she was going to die.
She realised that nobody would look after her son if she died and she decided to commit suicide and kill her son.
She gave her son the poison-laced yoghurt.
Mazibuko testified in mitigation of sentence that she worked at a retail shop.
On the morning of the incident she became scared and gave her son the poison before taking some herself. When she realised both of them were dying, she phoned her boyfriend for help.
The magistrate found that the murder was premeditated. Mazibuko disputed this.
The judge said it was clear that Mazibuko took the decision to take her own life and that of her son shortly after she woke up on the day of the incident.
She was desperate and immediately went into action.
“Having regard to her emotional condition and the manner in which the murder was committed, there are clearly no facts to substantiate a finding that the murder was premeditated,” the judge said.
“It would appear that it was committed on the spur of the moment, probably without considering the result.”