Johannesburg - All Maliepetsane Precious Mokoena wanted to do was hit out at her former husband.
However, instead of directing her anger at him, the 43-year-old took it out on their 8-year-old son, Lehlohonolo Magatikele.
On January 13 last year, while he slept, Mokoena suffocated him. She then took his lifeless body, loaded it into her car, drove to the next suburb and burnt it on the side of the road in an attempt to cover her tracks.
Sentencing Mokoena on Wednesday at the South Gauteng High Court, which is sitting in the Palm Ridge Court, Judge Ndawoyakhe Tshabalala said what made the murder reprehensible was that Lehlohonolo’s life was taken violently by his own mother.
“He had done nothing wrong to deserve death,” the judge said. “He was sleeping peacefully when he was killed by his mother, who was driven by the desire to hurt her former husband and stop his new wife from bonding with him (Lehlohonolo). His life went out violently.
“Even in my naivety, I can’t imagine his body writhing underneath the pillow, struggling to breathe. Nothing can justify or excuse Mokoena’s actions against Lehlohonolo,” the judge said.
Mokoena was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment for Lehlohonolo’s murder, two years for malicious damage to property and six months for assault.
The two years and six months will run concurrently with the first sentence, meaning Mokoena will serve an 18-year sentence.
During the trial, Mokoena was taken for a psychiatric assessment, and when asked why she killed her son, she said: “I did what I did because I was called a psychopath. I did what a psychopath would do.
“I was tired of fighting and would not let another woman take care of my child.”
She allegedly did not show any emotion while saying that.
It was revealed during the trial that Mokoena and her former husband, Joseph Magatikele, were constantly at loggerheads regarding custody and access to Lehlohonolo.
In mitigation of sentence on Wednesday, her lawyer, advocate Thabiso Mashitoa, told the court that when Mokoena filed for divorce in 2006, it was the second time she had done so.
She did not go through with the divorce the first time because her mother had told her to persevere in the marriage and “stand the heat”.
Mashitoa said Mokoena had been going through a lot of stress that later turned into depression at the time of the incident, and that she had shown remorse by pleading guilty.
Judge Tshabalala, however, disagreed, saying: “The crime she is convicted of was unnecessary and cannot be justified by any stretch of the imagination. She expressed no remorse for her actions.”
The judge said Mokoena’s crime called for a life sentence, but that she was not a hardened criminal and was also a candidate for rehabilitation.
On bidding her family goodbye, Mokoena dabbed away a few tears as she walked to the cells.