Vryburg - Emotions ran high in the North West Circuit High Court, sitting in the Vryburg Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, when Venolia Siwa was sentenced to 12 years in prison for killing her five children in Pampierstad last year.
Siwa battled to hold back her tears as Judge Ronald Hendricks told her that there was compelling evidence that she had no intention of killing her five children.
“Looking at all the evidence before the court, it is clear that there is compelling evidence for this court to deviate from giving you a prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years’ jail on each count.
“This court will therefore sentence you to 12 years’ imprisonment on each count, which will be served concurrently.”
Judge Hendricks said that his decision to grant Siwa a lesser sentence was informed by several issues, including the pre-sentencing report compiled by Marelize Vergottini, a social worker in the Free State Department of Education, who on Tuesday told the court that severe psychological problems could have led to Siwa’s killing her children.
“The report shows that at the time you committed the crime, your behaviour was not normal. The report also shows that you were a good mother to your children until that day when you snapped and even went to the extent of trying to commit suicide,” Judge Hendricks said.
He said although Siwa had not verbally apologised for stabbing four of her children, aged four, five, 10 and 13, and drowning the youngest, two years old, she had shown remorse by pleading guilty to the crimes. “It is clear that the crime you committed was not premeditated and therefore you must be given a second chance in life,” Judge Hendricks stated.
However, he rebuked Siwa for “killing the helpless children who were looking to you for love, support and safety”.
“The seriousness of the crime you committed cannot be underestimated as it has sent shockwaves through our communities. In fact, what you did was unprecedented in our society.”
Siwa’s sentence is conditional on her presenting herself for psychological counselling and treatment at the prison facility where she is to be held.
Earlier during the proceedings, Vergottini was close to tears as she delivered the psychological aspect of the pre-sentencing report which shed light on the problems that Siwa was facing.
“My observation, which was confirmed by some of the doctors who psychologically examined her, showed that psychological problems contributed to Siwa killing the children. The only problem now is that, although she is aware that she killed the children, she still cannot bring herself to say so,” Vergottini said.
“What is strange about this incident is that there appears to be no pattern with Siwa abusing the children. Everyone I spoke to when I was working on this report, told me she loved the children very much and that they were shocked to learn about what she had done.”
Vergottini said a doctor who used to treat Siwa and her children was also shocked by the murders.
“Dr Nel told me that Siwa used to come with the children to her consulting room and they all looked happy,” Vergottini testified.
Siwa’s advocate, Nzame Skibi, argued for a 10-year sentence, and the State for 20 years for each count.
Siwa stabbed Sizwe, 13, who was physically and mentally disabled, Lukhanyo, 10, Edward, five, and Reatlegile, four, with a kitchen knife before drowning the two-year-old.