Pretoria - A Soshanguve man sentenced to life imprisonment two years ago for his part in the gruesome murder of 10-year-old Masego Kgomo got a lifeline when the Pretoria High Court granted him leave to appeal against his conviction and sentence.
In October 2011, Brian Mangwale was found guilty of kidnapping and murdering Masego.
His trial made headlines due to the brutality of the killing as the court was told Masego’s uterus and other body parts had been ripped from her, presumably while she was alive. These were apparently sold to a sangoma, identified only as Jan, for muti.
Mangwale, who pleaded not guilty, made three statements - two to the police and one to a magistrate - in which he confessed to his part in the killing. However, he said he was told by the police what to say and claimed he was severely assaulted.
The three statements all differed. In one statement he said he, with the help of others, ripped out body parts out while Masego was alive.
In another, he said he was present when a sangoma tore out the body parts, including the child’s uterus. A statement he made before a magistrate was accepted by the court. In it he said he was assisted by others to remove body parts.
He said he wrapped the organs in a plastic bag, which he hid in bushes, while he assisted the police and her parents in their week-long search for Masego.
A teenager who took the stand during the trial claimed he had seen Masego being gang-raped on the night of December 31, 2009.
Judge Billy Motlhe could not make a finding regarding rape as the teenager’s evidence had shortcomings. Also, a post-mortem report could not shed light on this as the girl’s body was badly decomposed and she had hardly any organs left.
Masego disappeared on the morning of December 31, 2009 - when Mangwale sent her to the shop to buy a cold drink.
Her body was discovered eight days later.
Mangwale claimed the police took him to the spot where the child’s body was discovered.
The police denied this and said Mangwale was guiding them to the site where he had buried the child, when he began making strange noises in the back of the vehicle, as if possessed by spirits. He then took them to a spot near a railway station in Soshanguve, where he pointed to a place under thick bushes. When a policeman lifted a cover, he saw the skull of a child. The girl’s body was naked from the waist down.
Judge Motlhe, giving judgment in the application for leave to appeal, said he had found the mitigating factors did not measure up with the overwhelming aggravating factors and he had been left no choice but to impose a life term.
He also referred to Mangwale’s three confessions and said he had found that the man had lied to the police and to the court regarding his version of events.
The court, however, accepted the third confession as far as it was collaborated by witnesses.
It also found that Mangwale had not been assaulted by the police.
In his application for leave to appeal, Mangwale said the court should have found he had been assaulted before making the confessions.
Judge Mothle said he could not find any authority dealing with instances where a suspect made multiple confessions at different times during detention.
This might be an aspect in which another court might reach another conclusion. He referred the appeal to a full Bench (three judges).