Durban - A woman who set her boyfriend’s shack alight after tiring of his alleged philandering has been sentenced to life in jail for murder.
But, it was not 35-year-old Goodness Mchunu’s boyfriend, Musawenkosi Hlengwa, who died in the fire, but his brother, Siyabonga Hlengwa.
She only realised her mistake when she heard screams from inside the shack - but even then she did nothing to help Siyabonga, the Pietermaritzburg High Court heard on Wednesday.
Sibongiseni Mkhize, 23, who helped Mchunu in what acting Judge Madlala Xulu labelled a crime of passion, was also sentenced to life in jail.
The pair were also sentenced to 10 years each for arson and two years each on two attempted murder counts - another man who had been sleeping in the shack on the night of June 5, 2010 managed to escape.
According to the evidence led during the trial, Mchunu’s relationship with Hlengwa had been an acrimonious one and so she approached Mkhize to help her to kill him.
The pair went to his home at an informal settlement in Lidgetton, near Howick, and, looking through the window, saw two figures asleep in one of the beds. Mchunu assumed it was her boyfriend and his mistress.
Mkhize poured petrol around the shack and Mchunu set it alight. However, upon hearing the screams, Mchunu looked through the window and realised it was not her boyfriend in the shack.
His brother, Siyabonga, was killed in the fire, while another man, Mlungisi Mchunu, escaped. Siyabonga’s body was badly burnt.
Prosecutor Rose Sepeng, who argued in aggravation of sentence on Wednesday, said the post-mortem photos of the corpse depicted the horror and excruciating pain the victim had endured being burnt alive.
Sepeng called Mchunu “a woman with no conscience”.
“She did not care who she hurt in the process of getting her revenge. When she realised that the wrong people were in the shack, she did not even attempt to help them. She left them to die,” Sepeng said.
Xulu found that even though the person who was killed was not the intended victim, the murder was premeditated and calculated, which necessitated a life sentence.
Meanwhile, Siyabonga’s mother, Ivy, who watched her son die, told of her grief in a statement submitted to the court. She said that when she saw the fire, she rushed to save him, but could not get into the house because of the flames.
“It broke my heart. I saw a wall collapse and then I saw my son burning,” she said.
“That was the last image of my son. I will never get over it.”
Ivy suffered smoke inhalation and burns on her face and abdomen.
“My heart is still hurting and my family will never be the same,” she said, adding that her son’s death was like a television programme that was constantly playing in her mind.
“I will never be happy again, and I will never forgive the people who killed my son.”