Sex workers 'elated' with Mthethwa verdict
Cape Town – Sex workers embraced each other and fought back tears as internationally acclaimed artist Zwelethu Mthethwa was found guilty of murder in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.
Mthethwa was convicted of kicking and beating to death 23-year-old sex worker Nokuphila Kumalo on April 14, 2013 in Ravenscraig road, Woodstock.
The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce's (SWEAT) Sally Shackleton welcomed the guilty verdict: "We are elated with the verdict and believe its fair. We have been monitoring the case and the outcome is very meaningful to us. We hope this will set a precedent for other cases. We eagerly await sentencing."
Defence lawyer William Booth asked the court to extend Mthethwa's R100 000 bail until sentencing proceedings, arguing that Mthethwa had cooperated throughout the trial and had handed in his passport.
Despite prosecutor Christenus van der Vijver not objecting, Judge Patricia Goliath said: "Once a person is convicted of a serious offence the presumption of innocence falls away".
Bail was revoked, which means Mthethwa will don prison overalls and spend his first night behind bars. He has no previous convictions.
Goliath accepted crucial CCTV footage which captured the kicking and beating of Kumalo in the early hours of April 14, 2013, in Ravenscraig Road, Woodstock.
Describing it as a “silent witness”, she said CCTV footage had become crucial in the collection of evidence and the finding of truth in criminal cases.
She said the case had been largely based on circumstantial evidence that she had weighed up “holistically”.
Goliath found that the kicker and the driver of the Porsche 911 Carrera were indeed the same person.
Tracker evidence found that the Porsche, belonging to Mthethwa, was parked in Ravenscraig Road during the six-minute attack.
Goliath said the defence’s attack on the authenticity of the footage could not be accepted: “It is real evidence.”
Forensic pathologist Dr Linda Liebenberg testified during the trial that Kumalo died of blunt force trauma and had a severe laceration of the liver which led to fatal internal blood loss.
As a petite woman, weighing only 46 kgs, Goliath said Kumalo would not have been able to defend herself.
Outside court, sex workers chanted on the steps calling for sex work to be decriminalised.
SWEAT's Dudu Dlamini said their fight was not over: "Only when sex work is decriminalised will we be free".
"We are not yet satisfied because we have lots of other cases. We need to push as much as we can."
With posters stating that sex workers are ten times more likely to be murdered than other women, the sex workers said they would return to court for sentencing proceedings and hoped Mthethwa would spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Sentencing proceedings have been set down for March 29.African News Agency