FRANCISTOWN: While the mother of the late Thuso Mlalazi who was gunned down gangster style in 2015 welcomes the sentence for her son’s killer to the gallows, it is not so with the relatives of Thuso’s murderer.
On Tuesday at the High Court, Court Room 3 presided over by Justice Matlhogonolo Phuthego, was a place of contrasting interests.
The upper floor of Phuthego’s court was mostly occupied by Maxala’s relatives who were waiting with keen interest to witness whether their kith and kin will escape the hangman’s noose or not.
On the other hand on the ground floor sat Thuso’s mother, Theresia, and a few relatives who for obvious reasons wanted the court to pronounce a verdict that they will mostly welcome-death penalty.
So it was not surprising to hear Nthoiwa’s relatives wailing after Justice Phuthego pronounced that Maxala shall hang by the neck until he dies.
In the same vein, Theresia, who was always conspicuous by her presence in the courts (Magistrate Court and High Court) ever since her son’s killer appeared in court for various mentions, welcomed the verdict that Phuthego handed down.
Said Theresia briefly: “The sentence that was passed by the court is a fifty-fifty verdict. Although it can never bring my son back, I welcome it. That guy murdered my son in cold blood. He is also supposed to lose his life.”
When passing a ruling on exceptional extenuating circumstances and sentence, Justice Phuthego said on the day the murder occurred, the accused said he was drinking alcohol (St Louis) at Savemore Bar in the company of his cousin, Tshoganetso Maxala.
The accused said he then bought two six packs of St Louis and thereafter, they went to Tatisiding to deliver some goods to his child, said Phuthego.
“The accused said after dropping off the goods, they went to the bars in Tatisiding to continue drinking. He said before they left Tatisiding he bought himself another six pack and they left for Borolong whereupon arrival, they went to Savemore where Tshoganetso said he wanted to buy food for his dog. He said Tshoganetso then bought him another six pack,” Phuthego narrated, adding that throughout the journey from Borolong to Tatisiding, the accused was the one who was driving his car.
Whilst they were still at Savemore, Phuthego explained, Tshoganetso told him that his girlfriend, Masa Shoto, wanted to go home.
“The accused said upon arrival at Shoto’s place, he waited outside the yard while Tshoganetso and Shoto got inside the house. He said he continued to drink his alcohol and while still drinking, he saw a man inside Shoto’s yard speaking over the phone. The accused said the man who was talking over the phone was giving some people directions to come to Shoto’s place. He said that shortly after the man he saw in the yard speaking over the phone, a Hilux car came and packed behind his car blocking him from leaving,” said Phuthego.
The judge added: “The accused then said a group of seven men alighted from the car that had packed behind his. He said some of the men went to the drivers’ seat while others went to the other side of the car to make sure that he could not escape. The accused said that shortly after the seven men had alighted from the car, the man who was speaking over the phone whom he later learnt was the deceased, told the seven men that “this is one of them...””
The accused said the men then started to beat him after Thuso instructed them to do so, noted the judge...
“The accused said he later managed to escape and went to his house to take his firearm which he then loaded with bullets. After taking the gun, the accused said he went back to Shoto’s place but found out that the men had already left. He said the men had also assaulted Shoto after Thuso instructed them to do so... He said he later took Shoto to the clinic and also reported the matter to the police at the Borolong Customary Court... He also stated that the police told him that if they find the men who assaulted them, they should take the men to the nearest police station,” said Phuthego...
Maxala, Phuthego went on, said he then went back to Savemore to continue to drink alcohol.
“...Later the accused said Thuso called Tshoganetso on his phone but he asked Tshoganetso to pass the phone over to him and he then asked Thuso why he and his friends assaulted him. The accused later said he then agreed with the deceased that they should meet at Satellite bars in Francistown. He added that when he arrived in Francistown at Satellite bars, he did not find the deceased but he called him on his phone asking him where he was since they had agreed to meet in Francistown. The accused said whilst he was still talking to the deceased over the phone, the deceased insulted his parents... He also stated that he bought more alcohol at Satellite and continued to drink,” said Phuthego.
The judge said the accused then started to look for Thuso all over Francistown until he located him at a filling station at Nzano Mall where he was fuelling his car...
“The accused said when Thuso saw his car at Nzano, he fled away until the accused followed him to a certain yard in Somerset East. The accused said he then cornered the deceased. The accused also said three men who were carrying softball bats and rods then alighted from Thuso’s car. The accused said he then approached the deceased and the three men who had alighted from the car. He said he was armed with his gun which was also loaded. He said the men started to assault him again with the weapons they were carrying. He said his gun then accidentally discharged while he was trying to dodge Thuso from assaulting him,” said Phuthego.
The accused, Phuthego added, had also pleaded youthful exuberance as another extenuating factor.
“He said during that fateful day, he was aged 33. When he was asked by the prosecutor if he sustained any serious injuries after Thuso and his friends assaulted him, he said that he only sustained minor injuries despite the fact that he said that he was assaulted by softball bats and metal rods. When he was asked why he did not go to the clinic at Borolong for medical attention where he had also taken Shoto to, he said he did but only waited for about 20 to 30 minutes although he left without receiving any assistance,” said Phuthego.
In this case, the judge noted, the accused had been able to tell the court what happened on that fateful day although he said he was intoxicated.
“He was able to locate the deceased while driving at high speed from Borolong and also in Francistown. There is no evidence that he caused any accident although he was driving at high speed whilst intoxicated. Whenever he went during that fateful day, he was driving himself. There is also no evidence that he committed any act of misconduct throughout that day although he was drunk. Although he may have been drinking alcohol, he was not very drunk to the point that he did not comprehend his actions. The issue of intoxication if at all he drank alcohol that he pleaded as one of his extenuation factors therefore, falls away,” said Phuthego.
Phuthego added that it is therefore, clear that the murder was premeditated...
“In this case, after the accused had a scuffle with the deceased, he went to his place and took his gun and loaded it and thereafter, started to look for the deceased. He then went to Savemore to continue to drink. He had time to cool off and properly reflect on the actions that he was planning to take. When he heard that the deceased was in Francistown, he drove about 20 kilometres from Borolong to Francistown to look for the deceased. When he spotted the deceased, the deceased ran away,” Phuthego continued.
Phuthego added: “The accused was determined to end the life of the deceased. He followed the deceased and upon cornering him, he took his loaded gun and gunned down him which led to the death of the deceased... When the accused committed this offence he was no longer a child... In the result, no exceptional extenuating circumstances exist in this case, the accused is sentenced to death and he shall be hanged by the neck until he dies... .”