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Guilty of murder, but where to put her?


There is nowhere appropriate to house South Africa's youngest female murderer, convicted in the Pietermaritzburg High Court this week.

With the State prosecutor advocate Sandesh Sankar having failed in his attempts to have the 14-year-old girl imprisoned soon after her conviction and indicating to Judge Kevin Swain that he would be seeking imprisonment, attention has now shifted to where, if the judge concurs with him, the teenager would be housed.

According to Advocate Malini Govender, a junior prosecutor in the matter, their research has so far revealed that the girl is the youngest female murderer and possibly even the youngest convicted killer in the country.

The girl was found guilty of the murder of a relative, Radha Govender, on September 14 2002.

She was strangled and stabbed by Sipho Hadebe and Vusimusi Tshabalala who had been approached by the girl, then 12 years old, and asked to kill her in return for jewellery and household items.

Malini Govender said they were looking at options available to the court after sentencing.

Nicro's Glynis Abrahams said her organisation often deals with young female juvenile offenders who end up in adult female sections as there are no facilities specifically for young offenders.

She said she hoped that in this case the court would be open to the idea of alternative sentencing.

Courts had diverted young offenders from the criminal justice system into Nicro's custody for purposes of rehabilitation before. She conceded that none of those offenders had been convicted of a crime as serious as murder.

The girl, who wept openly in court after her conviction, will remain in her mother's custody until December 13 when the court will deal with sentencing.

In convicting her, Judge Swain noted that the court had been given expert opinion by a psychologist that she operated at a level beyond her chronological age.

He rejected her version that Dash Govender had been behind the plot to kill Radha - the mother of his former girlfriend - and said she had led the court through a web of lies and deceit.

Crucial in the judge's finding was that the accused had the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of her actions. By her own admission she had known that killing someone was a criminal offence although she was unsure if hiring someone to kill was a crime.

The judge continued to pick apart her evidence pointing out that the supposed interest of Dash in having the deceased killed lacked supporting motive.

The possible motive raised in court that he held the deceased responsible for breaking up his relationship with her daughter was rejected by the court which said both Dash and the deceased's daughter had testified that they had simply outgrown each other.

The court found that Dash's R20 000 debt to the deceased could not have been a motive as Dash had carried the debt for almost 10 years without having been asked for the money.

Instead, Judge Swain found that the fact that the girl had put sleeping tablets in Radha Govender's tea before letting the two men kill her pointed to her foresight and planning.

He said the two telephone calls she made just before and just after the murder were an attempt to secure an alibi.


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