Durban - Three hitmen who shot their victim several times were sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday in the Durban High Court.
Zakhele Sibiya, 28, S’thembiso Hadebe, 25, and Th’ulani Nkosi, 26, who had earlier pleaded for leniency in sentencing, were convicted in July of the murder of Mvungamvunga Siyabonga Mthethwa at Jacobs Men’s Hostel in 2009.
On Wednesday, Acting Judge Vusi Khuzwayo found there were no compelling reasons to stray from the minimum prescribed sentence.
Each was sentenced to life imprisonment and to three years’ imprisonment for possession of an unlicensed firearm and a year for the unlawful possession of ammunition. The sentences are to run concurrently.
During arguments for sentencing on Tuesday, one of the trio had argued that he had been raised without guidance, as both his parents disappeared when he was very young.
Another argued he was a first-time offender and the third said the murder had not been premeditated.
According to the indictment, all three men arrived at the hostel with firearms and shot Mthethwa several times before fleeing and later boarding a passing taxi.
Mthethwa died at the scene from gunshot wounds.
The taxi driver had testified that he heard the gunshots and that the men had asked to be driven to the city centre and had promised to pay him for a full taxi load.
The taxi driver said he had to drop off the remainder of his passengers first, and his conductor had got off to contact the police, who stopped the taxi shortly afterwards.
The trio were arrested in possession of the firearms and ammunition.
The State had argued that the men had acted in common purpose to kill Mthethwa for a fee of R30 000.
Sibiya’s motivation for a lesser sentence was that he had two children whose child grants had been suspended, and that he had been orphaned when his mother died in 1990, and his father in 2004.
Hadebe has a six-year-old son whose mother is unemployed, the court had heard.
His mother disappeared in the early 1990s and he later learnt she had died. His father disappeared in 1996 and it was argued that Hadebe lived with his grandmother, but had grown up with no guidance and was not the kind of person to make sound decisions, and was tempted by the money.
Nkosi had claimed that the murder was not premeditated as he was contacted by the two co-accused to meet for a discussion. However, the acting judge pointed out that Sibiya had testified about calling him, not for a discussion, but to ask how far away he was on the day of the murder because they were late.
State advocate Cheryl Naidu had argued for life sentences for the trio, saying the men had showed no remorse and that by not explaining why they had committed the murder, they had wasted the court’s time.
“(Sibiya and Hadebe) are not the primary caregivers for their children, as they have been in custody since 2009. The children’s grant appears to have stopped and the court can order for the department to visit the children to remedy the situation,” Naidu said.
She had struggled to accept that Hadebe had grown up with no guidance. “I submit that his grandmother did show some guidance, but (he) refused to accept it.”
Naidu felt the murder was premeditated as the men went to the hostel armed to kill for a fee, and argued for a harsh sentence as a person was murdered for monetary benefit.
Before sentencing the men to life, acting Judge Khuzwayo said the trio had showed no remorse throughout the trial.