Abusive step-mom escapes jail term

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JWANENG: Pelonomi Ungwang sighed with relief after magistrate Basetsana Keakantse exercised mercy and fined her P10,000 for cruelly abusing and treating her minor step-son, accusing him of witchraft.

Ungwang was facing a possible fine of not less P30,000 but not more than P50,000 and an imprisonment term not less than seven years but not more than 10 years. The P10,000 is payable end of March 2016, failing which she will spend a year in prison. In mitigation, her attorney, Segaisi argued that the case is rare and unique therefore the court should not be harsh. She said the accused committed the crime in an endeavour to mould and assist the complaint to excel at school. He added that the child confessed in court that he hated the accused therefore she was subjected to difficult condition of raising a child who was not her  own.

“The accused is a first offender, a mother of three and breastfeeding her last infant. The husband is a police officer who is always out on duty and the accused takes responsibility as the head,” he said. Segaisi said a non-custodial sentence will be appropriate and will give the accused a lesson to never interfere with other people’s  children.

While passing the sentence, Keakantse said she considered the mitigating circumstances as stated by the defence.

Ungwang was previously charged with her husband Khumo Ungwang who was  later discharged and acquitted due to lack of evidence that linked him to the offence.

Evidence before court was that on March 18,2013, the couple, who have custody of the child, caused multiple injuries to the said child ,thereby subjecting him to cruelty and degrading treatment contrary to section 61 sub-section 1 of the children’s act.

A medical doctor Indiya Umaga testified that she observed bruises on the boy’s body, open sores in the buttocks, which can have resulted from a stick or belt beatings, but no broken bones.

A guidance and counselling teacher at Jwana primary school also testified that the child was admitted mid-2012 and she observed that the child was perpetually looking dirty and lonely as he did not mingle with others. She approached his class teacher who called the step-mother to school.

The step-mother revealed that indeed she whipped the child as he was a nuisance and also practised witchcraft. She noted that the boy walked around the house at night and she was fed up.

On March 19, 2013, the child came to school for the 3pm study with swollen hands and told the teacher that his step-mother had ordered him to put his hands on the table, and she proceeded to hit with a moretlwa stick. The teacher also observed other injuries and scars on the back, buttocks and thighs as well as dried tears on his face. He was taken before a social welfare officer and a police case was opened. The first accused person (father) mentioned that it was his first time to see scars on his son.

It is also in court’s records that the child testified that his step-mother cruelly assaulted him and asked one of her nephews, one Kgosi, to also assault him after he failed to bath as instructed. He said the accused told him to go outside before he showered him with cold hosepipe water. He also alleged that when his father (first accused person) arrived, he also assaulted him after the mother reported that he ate a child’s yoghurt.

The step-mother also admitted in court that she indeed administered corporal punishment to the child as a disciplinary measure for failing to do some house chores. She noted that on that day, he did not bath and she beat him with a moretlwa stick. She said she did not know what could have caused the scars around his body.

Keakantse said it was not disputed that she assaulted the minor boy and also asked Kgosi to do so. She said the medical report also recorded open wounds and swollen hands. Keakantse noted that corporal punishment is allowed, but it is prohibited when administered excessively.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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