Eight heavily armed police officers were stationed at the Durban Regional Court for the sentencing of convicted murderer, Khayelihle Mroza Mbuthuma. Picture: ANA Reporter

Durban – Khayelihle Mbuthuma’s face betrayed no emotion as he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 2017 murder of a defenceless Glebelands Hostel grandmother at the Durban Regional Court on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old stood emotionless, expressionless, as Magistrate Bongiwe Mbaluwa handed down the sentence.

Mbuthuma was found guilty of murder on Thursday last week for the killing of Sbongile Mtshali at Glebelands on March 29, last year. State advocate Dorian Paver described the murder as “a contract style killing” while arguing for a life sentence.

Although he was not the triggerman, Mbuthuma was convicted on common purpose. The shooter is yet to be arrested.

According to Paver, Mbuthuma and his cohort had premeditated the killing of the 52-year-old grandmother, who was shot while her granddaughter and a neighbour were in her room at the hostel.

The men had gained access to Mtshali’s room on the pretext of buying goods from her informal tuck-shop. They shot her in the head and chest area and then removed spent cartridges from the scene.  

A witness who testified in-camera during the trial identified Mbuthuma as one of the armed men who entered the room. The witness has since left Glebelands.

“[Mbuthuma] formed a pact with the shooter to ensure the woman met her death,” Paver told the court. 

“It is clear that the accused and his cohort wanted to kill the deceased.... This was a barbarous, senseless killing of a woman in her 50s who was utterly defenceless,” said Paver.

Arguing in mitigation of sentence, Mbuthuma’s attorney, Natasha Singh, said that her client was a first time offender, had been gainfully employed at the time of his arrest and supported his girlfriend and two small children on a salary of R3 300 per month.

Singh said Mbuthuma was young enough to be rehabilitated and that there had been no aggravating circumstances surrounding the shooting.

But Paver said that a “planned, premeditated” killing was clearly an aggravating circumstance, as was Mbuthuma’s “sheer lack of remorse”.

Mbuthuma had himself admitted that killings were prevalent at the hostel and had put the number of murders down to 180, according to Paver.

While handing down the sentence, Mbaluwa said it was clear the murder was carefully planned. 

“It’s true the accused did not shoot the deceased, but his actions were akin to those of the shooter,” she said.

“I am inclined to agree with the state council that this was a barbaric act on behalf of the accused and his cohort,” she said. 

"As for rehabilitation, in order for that to be successful, a person had to have shown remorse."

“The accused did not want to subject himself to cross examination so that motive could be determined.”

Mbuthuma is also accused number one in the state’s case against the “Glebelands Seven”, a group of alleged hitmen who terrorised the hostel for years and planned and conducted hits.

Paver is also the prosecutor in that case, which includes charges of murder and attempted murder against all seven, amongst them a Durban-based detective, for crimes committed at Glebelands from August 2014 to March 2016. The Glebelands Seven have also been charged with common purpose. They appear again on 10 April.

African News Agency/ANA