Durban - The mother of a seven-year-old Chatsworth boy who was killed because it was thought he was a tiger,asked the Durban Regional Court on Thursday to sentence the man responsible to life and “throw away the key”.

Magistrate Trevor Levitt felt this would be too severe a sentence and unjust, as the crime was committed on the spur of the moment. He instead sentenced Sibusiso Madiya, 25, to 13 years imprisonment.

“You will have to learn that people cannot change into animals, and vice versa. This is against all the rules of physics and nature. You need to take control of yourself and realise that, otherwise you’ll find yourself in serious trouble again,” he told Madiya.

The man had pleaded not guilty in July to a charge of murder.

He told the court, through his Legal Aid attorney, Hycenth Mlotshwa, that he saw the “tiger” Grade 1 pupil Lindokuhle Mabhena approach him at a park in June last year, and thought he was going to attack him. He stabbed the boy with a knife he had found on the ground earlier.

It was only after a group of people arrived that he realised it was not a tiger, but a human being, he said.

However, he testified on Thursday that he had killed Lindokuhle when he was a human being because he was afraid he would turn back into an animal.

On June 15, Lindo and his friends were playing at a park in Peak Street, Shallcross. As they were leaving, they saw Madiya sitting on the ground with his skateboard. Madiya had asked them to find a container for water and they obliged. He shared his juice and food with them and had lent them his skateboard to ride.

Lindokuhle had tried and fallen off, so decided to sit next to Madiya while his friends continued to play. His friends noticed him lying on the road and discovered he had been stabbed in the back of his neck.

Madiya contended that “something strange happened” and he saw the boys turn into tigers with Lindokuhle threatening to attack him. He was arrested the same day and a knife was found in his possession.

Madiya testified in his defence and said his skateboard was used as a shield when he was previously attacked. The skateboard, he said, acted as a shield again this time, and caused Lindokuhle to change back into human form.

However, Madiya still stabbed the boy because he was afraid he would transform into an animal again. He also attested to seeing a prisoner turning into a snake.

“The court cannot allow anyone to raise an absurd defence and be acquitted,” said Levitt during judgment.

Madiya said being a Rastafarian and smoking dagga did not cause him to hallucinate, and was adamant what he saw was real.

Prosecutor Krishen Shah told the court Madiya had been sent for mental observation at Fort Napier Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, and was found to be mentally fit to stand trial.

Lindokuhle’s mother, Nombulelo Mabhena, told the court his death had been very painful. She described her youngest child as being brilliant at school, who could have grown up to become a doctor, lawyer or police officer, and provide for his family. His father had died last year, before Lindokuhle’s death.

Madiya apologised and said he was remorseful.

“As you apologise to me, will you bring back my child?” she replied.

Levitt urged Madiya to accept that people cannot change into animals and vice versa, saying there were norms and standards in civil society.

He did not agree to a life sentence because he felt that there was no reason to find Madiya was beyond the stage of rehabilitation. After handing down the sentence, he addressed Mabhena, informing her of her right to make representations should Madiya apply for parole and to keep in contact with the Department of Correctional Services, providing them with her updated contact details.

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