Johannesburg – Eastern Cape lawyer Matthew Mpahlwa has weighed in on the criticism of the suitcase murder judgment, saying it is a balanced judgment in law under the circumstances.
This comes after judge Nomathamsanqa Beshe, sentenced Alutha Pasile on Friday to 25 years imprisonment for the murder of Nosicelo Mtebeni, and 10 years for attempting to defeat the ends of justice when he cut Mtebeni’s body into pieces and stuffed it in a suitcase.
The sentences are to run concurrently.
Pasile murdered Mtebeni, a final year LLB student at University of Fort Hare in August, in a fit of jealousy.
The two were in a relationship and lived together at the time of the murder.
Pasile told the court, through his plea statement that was read out by his lawyer Ncumisa Dyantyi, that he suspected that she was cheating on him.
He was going through her cellphone while she was in the bathroom when a confrontation ensued that ended with him pushing her hard against the wall.
Mtebeni collapsed to her death. The judgment has drawn wide criticism in various platforms of social media and in civic society.
For the Mtebeni family, the judgment is a bitter pill to swallow because Pasile could be released in 14 years.
Nosicelo’s father Kholisile Mtebeni said: “We are not happy at all with this judgment that he is getting 25 years imprisonment, when he could be out in 14 years and do something similar.
“He killed and then cut the body into pieces and went to buy drugs.”
Stand as One against GBV, a non-government organisation at Fort Hare, also criticised the sentence, saying it was too light for the offence.
“A harsher sentence would have honoured Nosicelo, and would have shown that the justice system is really serious about combating the scourge of GBV,” said the organisation’s Dr Rianna Oelofsen.
“The way in which Alutha Pasile then treated the body of this woman, as if she was not a human being, but a piece of meat, is an indication of just how little her life meant to him,” she added.
However, Mpahlwa said the judgment is well-balanced, the law was applied properly and it was in line with other judgments that have dealt with similar crimes.
“The court accepts that the offender had no intention of killing the deceased,” Mpahlwa said.
“There is no amount of prison sentence that can vindicate the deeds of the offender.
“I must further add that even if it was a double life sentence; people must be mindful that these sentences tend to be ordered by the courts to run concurrently; thereby making it to be one sentence.
So, in the end we are dealing with the same round ball,” he said.
The National Prosecuting Authority said it had no intention to appeal the sentence because it goes beyond the minimum sentence of 15 years.
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