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Durban - Two months after a Chinese woman was viciously murdered at her family business in KwaZulu-Natal, her grieving husband says he is no closer to finding out why she had to be killed.
Meimei Wang, 34, was strangled, stabbed 21 times and repeatedly hit over the head with a 9kg gas cylinder at the shop in Umzimkhulu on June 17.
Two men pleaded guilty to murder in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Wednesday. Sivuyile Lukhakhayi and Amandla Vukaphi, both 21 and still in school, were sentenced to life imprisonment plus 15 years each for robbery.
A third accused, 18-year old Tshidiso Rampesi who worked as a guard at the store, pleaded guilty last week and was sentenced to an effective 20 years in prison.
Shoulong Chan, who moved back to China after the murder and returned to South Africa for Wednesday’s verdict, said he still could not fathom why his wife had to be killed.
Speaking via his attorney, Samlal Garbaran, hired to conduct a watching brief over the murder case, Chan, who speaks Mandarin, said he had since sold the business and moved back to China with his three children, who are eight, five and three years old.
The couple had moved to South Africa about six years ago.
On the day of the murder Wang was alone at the Kwa-Khaile store.
“Why did they have to kill her? They could have taken what they wanted and spared her life,” said the still distraught Chan.
He said he had seen the CCTV footage of how his petite wife was killed at the hands of her three attackers.
Acting Judge Enthias Xolo, who had convicted Rampesi, had found there were substantial and compelling circumstances in his favour, including the fact that he was a youthful first offender and had demonstrated remorse for his actions.
However, Shoulong said he was horrified by the sentence, and did not think it was appropriate considering the violence his wife was subjected to.
Rampesi’s accomplices had told the court that while they had both been responsible for assaulting and stabbing Wang, Rampesi had joined in later and assaulted Wang with the gas cylinder.
They said it had been Rampesi’s idea to rob the shop.
The court had heard that when Lukhakhayi and Vukaphi arrived at the shop that morning, they found Wang sweeping the floor.
They grabbed her and pushed her to the floor.
Vukaphi started stabbing her while his accomplices stole a computer monitor, cigarettes, tobacco and airtime vouchers. Lukhakhayi then joined in the stabbing.
The post-mortem revealed that Wang had suffered 21 fatal wounds, and more than 20 superficial wounds.
She also suffered massive head trauma when she was assaulted with the gas cylinder.
Judge Rashid Vahed, who convicted Lukhakhayi and Vukaphi on Wednesday, said Rampesi was “fortunate” to have got off so lightly.
He said Lukhakhayi and Vukaphi had participated fully in the murder, stabbing Wang multiple times.
“You brought to an end the life of an innocent woman who did you no wrong. This woman was subjected to a particularly vicious attack and I can find no substantial and compelling circumstances in this case that allows the court to deviate from the prescribed life sentence,” said Judge Vahed.
Shoulong said that he was satisfied with the life sentences, only because this was the maximum punishment allowed by South African law.
The Chinese business community in Umzimkhulu also expressed shock and anger at Wang’s murder.
Miao Tian, a business owner in the area who moved to South Africa 19 years ago, said she did not believe the prison terms were sufficient for Wang’s killers.
“In China, the death penalty is still practised. This would be justice for such a brutal murder,” Tian said.
She said the Chinese business community in South Africa was huge, and that relations with South Africans were generally very good.
Tian said, however, that crime was always a huge concern.
“We are easy targets, but we provide the community with a service and provide jobs,” she said. “We just want to live in peace and earn a living, like everybody else.”