Wielding a sjambok, Wisani, a former ANC Youth League regional leader, beat the 24-year-old woman to death in 2015. While a murder conviction usually carries a life sentence, the high court in Joburg yesterday made the decision to deviate from this.
“I’m not happy, because the sentence of 20 years handed down was too little,” Mandleleni’s visibly upset mother, Noxolo, said in isiXhosa. “This man should’ve been given a life sentence, which would’ve been more appropriate.”
Community members and activists packed the courtroom in the high court for Wisani’s sentencing of 20 years for murder and a year each for assaulting and intimidating a State witness. The largely symbolic one-year sentences will be served concurrently with the murder charge.
In November, the court found Wisani guilty of killing Mandleleni at their Yeoville residence in September 2015. Her sister found her - beaten repeatedly with a sjambok and a broomstick - bleeding to death.
Although the judgment was not as severe as the family wished, there was still a silver lining to be had, said Nonhlanhla Skosana, of Sonke Gender Justice, after the sentencing.
“We know a lot of cases that just disappear and you don’t hear anything about it,” she said. “But for the fact that we are here today, for us it is a victory in a way.”
However, if any justice was served, it wasn’t because of the South African criminal justice system, Sonke members said.
Instead, it was the activist groups like Sonke that made it their mission to hold the system accountable after a “shoddy investigation from the start”.
“Our system is not designed to adequately deal with cases of violence against women. Our system failed Nosipho Mandleleni. And it will continue to fail more women like her if these breakdowns are not addressed,” Sonke representatives Thabang Pooe and Skosana wrote in a statement.
Community members at the sentencing agreed that it was not harsh enough.
“I hope he rots in hell,” one woman told The Star.
Maurice Smithers, the Yeoville Bellevue No to Gender-Based Violence Coalition’s spokesperson, said it was clear that Judge Mohamed Ismail had carefully considered the judgment.
The one qualm he had was the judge’s citing of a case where a perpetrator who received the same sentence had pleaded guilty. In comparison, Wisani had not shown any remorse or emotion besides anger, he said.
“That is a bit disturbing, I have to say,” Smithers added.
A small group dressed in the yellow garb of the ANC was also at the court. But compared to the dozens of supporters who swarmed the hallway after the sentencing, it was clear which side had come out in full force.
“Don’t play along with domestic violence,” read one woman’s sign.
Opposition parties also entered the fray yesterday, welcoming Wisani’s sentence.
The DA held a picket outside the court, carrying signs that called for “Justice for victims of abuse” and to “End violence against women”.
The EFF released a statement saying Wisani’s conduct was characteristic of the ANC Youth League.
Phindi Mjonondwane, a spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, said the NPA was in agreement with the court’s decision and that Wisani should be removed from society.
“In this constitutional dispensation, there is no place for people like him who perpetrate violent crimes against women,” she said.
“We believe that it is a just and proper sentence for the nature of the crime that he committed,” stated Mjonondwane.