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Durban - A belief in witchcraft can no longer be justified as a mitigating explanation for murder.
That’s according to Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Rishi Seegobin, who on Thursday sentenced three men to 20 years in prison for the murders of two women in Vryheid in August this year.
Thulani Xulu, 25, Bongani Xulu, 28, and Zakhele Nkosi, 26, pleaded guilty to the murders of Alice Dlamini and her daughter, Nkosikhona Xulu, and admitted to bludgeoning the women with a hammer, a stick and a spear, believing they were practising witches.
Dlamini was stepmother to Thulani and Bongani and Nkosikhona was their half-sister. They all lived in the same homestead at the time of the murders.
“We live in a modern society where superstition and belief in witchcraft should not be viewed as a justification for murder. We are not dealing with primitive people, nor are we living in the dark ages. Sometimes witchcraft is just used as an excuse to commit a heinous offence,” said Seegobin.
The judge said the men had taken the lives of the two women in a cruel fashion and in a manner that ensured they would not survive.
“The sentence must reflect the indignation of society. A subjective belief in witchcraft cannot absolve them from the atrocity of their actions, or lessen their moral blameworthiness,” the judge said.
In their plea statements, the men said that on the day of the murders, the women had made utterances to them that had fuelled their suspicions that they were practising witchcraft.
“They said that muti they would dig from the ground would ensure we would not be alive in three days’ time,” Thulani Xulu said.
“We got scared that they were going to kill us. What scared us more was that there had been rumours that the two were practising witchcraft. That is when we got our weapons and started to hit them.”
The post mortem report indicated the women were battered to death, with the majority of the injuries inflicted to their heads.