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Durban - The Durban High Court handed down a sentence of 25 years in prison to a man found guilty of stabbing a youth centre employee to death before fleeing.

Kwanele Memela pleaded guilty in December to the murder of Meshack Ntshangase, a control supervisor at the Excelsior Youth Centre for juvenile offenders in Pinetown, and to a charge of theft.

Memela told the court in a statement that he was detained at the centre on March 13, 2017.

Ntshangase, 40, was allegedly stabbed multiple times by three minors who then fled, but police have arrested only two minors.

The supervisor was murdered at the centre while some workers there held a placard demonstration for better working conditions outside the premises.

Memela, 20, was 17 when he committed the crime.

His co-accused is to be tried in August, while another suspect is still at large.

Describing events on the day of the murder, Memela said an inmate named Nkande asked him if he wanted to escape from the centre. He said the inmate told him that employees were on strike and Ntshangase was working alone, and that it would be easy to leave without being noticed.

He said another inmate, Bongumusa, joined discussions about how they would escape.

“Nkande believed that the keys to the gate behind the premises were kept somewhere in the office. We proceeded to the office and started opening drawers, looking for the keys, but we did not find anything. We proceeded to another office where I found a laptop and a bag, and Nkande found two USBs and took them. We found several envelopes with money. We took the money and left empty envelopes,” he said.

Memela said when they could not find the keys, they tried to remove the screws off a door handle with a knife.

He said they were unable to remove the screws with the knife and temporarily shelved their plan to escape, and while walking away they saw Ntshangase approaching. Nkande produced the knife, grabbed and stabbed him.

Memela and Bongumusa held Ntshangase while Nkande continued stabbing him until he fell.

“We then dragged him into the toilet. We jumped over the fence, removed the centre uniforms and proceeded home,” he said.

Judge Nompumelelo Radebe said Memela pleaded guilty after realising that the evidence against him was overwhelming.

She said when members of Ntshangase’s family and friends broke down in court, he did not ask for an opportunity to apologise.

Memela had stated in a report that both his parents were alcoholics, that he had dropped out of school in Grade 4 and spent his life relocating from town to town, but Radebe said those circumstances could not be used an as excuse for his actions.

“He committed the crimes at the youth centre where he was detained for other crimes of theft. This shows that he is a hard person to... rehabilitate. The appropriate sentence is 25 years in prison.”

Ntshangase’s wife, Nosibusiso Ntshangase, said the family was still coming to grips with his murder as they knew that the minors at Excelsior had had a good relationship with him.

She said her husband had been passionate about working with children and had worked at the centre since 1994. “He loved these children and he believed in rehabilitating them. He did not treat them as prisoners, but like his own children. I am happy that justice has been served,” she said.

Daily News