FRANCISTOWN: A young woman breathed a sigh of relief after Justice Barnabas Nyamadzabo gave her a suspended sentence on Wednesday for terminating her pregnancy.
Gaone Tonto (27) was convicted after she pleaded guilty to a single charge of aborting a six-month old fetus in Selebi-Phikwe, on February 25, 2011.
When assessing sentence, Nyamadzabo said the circumstances leading her to commit the offence are clearly captured in the summary of facts. He also said pursuant to commission of the offence, the accused was chased away by her then boyfriend who she used to live with.
“Her boyfriend told her that he no longer needed her. He would also brag to her that he has sex with his new girlfriend in their house when she was away. This abuse did not end there and the boyfriend ultimately chased her away from their home,” he said.
Nyamadzabo said that the accused sought assistance from her older sister but her intervention didn’t bear any fruit, which led her to seeking help from a friend.
The judge said when her friend suggested that she end the pregnancy by drinking a concoction provided by a certain man, Tonto jumped at the suggestion. Tonto later put the baby in a plastic bag and went home to sleep. The baby died in hospital the following day.
Nyamadzabo said by then, the accused had not fully recovered from the effects of giving birth, which were compounded by the fact that her boyfriend jilted her when she was pregnant, at a time when she needed somebody to give her emotional and material support.
“It is of course obvious that killing her child was illegal and cannot be justified more so that the killing of a human being by another is essentially unlawful unless it is in self defence,” he said.
Nyamadzabo however said punishment of offenders should not be approached in a spirit of anger because if so, people passing sentences would not be in a position to know if the punishment meted is high or too little.
He said the only aggravating factor as aptly articulated by defence counsel Kakanyo Mokwena is the seriousness of the offence but that should be overemphasised without looking at the mitigating factors.
The judge added that society had already blamed the accused for her actions but since she had pleaded guilty, which is a sign of remorse, despite what happened, he has no doubt that she should not be treated like other wrong doers who knowing very well what they have committed, dispute it, with the hope that they may get an acquittal wasting the court’s valuable time in the process.
Nyamadzabo said he has noted that the accused was relatively young, 23, when she committed the offence in 2011.
“I find that her case demands the court to have mercy on her since she is also eight months pregnant now. She is therefore sentenced to five years in jail wholly suspended for three years on condition that she does not commit any offence involving concealing of birth or manslaughter,” he concluded.
Nyamadzabo advised the accused to lodge an appeal if she is not satisfied with the conviction and sentence, or both.