Anna Mahlangu has been sentenced to 15 years for causing the death of her foster daughter by setting her alight. Picture: Rudzani Matshili/ANA

Pretoria - Anna Mahlangu, 64, sobbed loudly as she went down the stairs to the holding cells of the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, after being sentenced to 15 years for the murder of her 13-year-old foster child.

Mahlangu, who was wearing a striped skirt, doek (scarf), tracksuit top and scarf, hugged her family members before disappearing from view.

The former domestic worker from Mamelodi was convicted of killing Nelly Masangu by pouring paraffin over her and setting her alight. She said she only wanted to teach the child a lesson.

Mahlangu claimed the teenager had stolen money from her and she simply wanted to scare her. The child died after spending a few weeks in hospital.

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Judge Bert Bam said that while he took into account that Mahlangu was a first offender and her age, murder was a serious crime that was punishable.

He reiterated that the teen died viciously and he did not understand how a woman of Mahlangu’s age would reprimand a child in the manner that she did.

“Murder is a serious crime; to set somebody alight is cruel. The victim was 13 years old. She died a month and eight days after the incident.

“On a daily basis there are campaigns in our country about children who are murdered and abused and irrespective of the reason why the murder was committed, the accused testified that the victim caused her a lot of trouble, to the extent that she was taken to the police station.

“But she was referred to the social worker and had an appointment the next day; the matter of concern is what triggered the accused on that day to commit the crime,” Judge Bam asked.

The court also questioned weather Mahlangu was really remorseful or just regretful.

“The accused expressed remorse and on several occasions said she was very sorry. The question arising is whether she does have true remorse or whether she is only regretting what she did.” The judge said Mahlangu was not absolutely truthful to the court.

Earlier, the accused’s legal representative, advocate Khomotso Tlouane had requested that there be a deviation from the minimum murder sentence of 15 years. However, due to the nature of the crime, Judge Bam refused.

Tlouane also made attempts for leave to appeal, but the judge refused that too.

In October, Mahlangu had testified that “I decided to pour paraffin over her and pretend that I was going to burn her. I believed that she would never burn because I was going to put the fire out.”

Mahlangu said that when the teenager caught fire, she tried to douse the flames by removing her clothes.

“Unfortunately, she slipped out of my hands and ran away.

“As she ran further away the flames became even more (intense). I and other tenants poured water on her in an effort to put out the flames. The fire was eventually put out, but unfortunately she had suffered burns.

“I never intended to burn her as I loved her. I had high hopes for her to one day make something of herself.”

Pretoria News