The Murder Incident That Broke Relationships

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FRANCISTOWN: Silence engulfed Justice Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe’s courtroom instantly. Not even shuffling of feet from throngs of men and women donning stainless steel five-sided star badges emblazoned ZCC,the abbreviation for Zion Christian Church, on their left-hand breast pockets.

It was Thursday afternoon. 

The ZCC members silently took their positions in the  public gallery with the women decorating the courtroom with their brightly coloured head scarves, or doeks as they are commonly known in Southern Africa.

The ZCC members had  come in large numbers to give moral support to the family of their deceased church mate, Hanifa Dube   who was hacked to death by her husband, Youngman Dube about a decade ago.

Justice Ketlogetswe was sentencing Youngman, a former Zion Christian Church (ZCC) pastor, for the murder.

Dube was a pastor at ZCC’s Block 1 branch popularly known as Mantsana.

Dube was in the dock for murdering his spouse some time in 2009. Earlier, he had been convicted of the murder.

By his admission, Youngman staged the incident to appear like his wife died in a car accident along the Matsiloje road, just east of Francistown. Rapt silence in court while Justice Ketlogetswe’s voice boomed.

 “…The accused said that he then came up with a plan to simulate that an accident had happened. He said he started to break the windscreen and lights of the car, but was thereafter arrested by the police.”

Though Youngman was convicted of the murder, the court, however, found exceptional extenuating circumstances.

“The law prescribes that where exceptional extenuating circumstances exist,” Justice Ketlogetwe proceeded, ”the court cannot impose the death penalty but other sentences prescribed by the law.”

Except for the few scribes who were covering the case, there was marked hositility towards the convict from the ZCC members who have come in large numbers and a handful of Matshelagabedi residents who were neighbours with both the deceased and the convict. Of course, Youngman only has a handful of sympathisers. But that obviously, that discounted the church members. Immediately after he was accused of murdeing his wife, he was barred from performing functions of a pastor. As they filed our of the courtroom, they ZCC members further demonstrated their biasness even after Youngman was slapped with a 20-year jail term.

They could be seen delicately comforting the teary deceased’s sister, Trene Esop  in the courtyard.  In the dock he sat, looking  very frail, the skin of his face now quite dark evidently due to the hardships of prison life and ill-health. In mitigation, which the court acknowledged, Youngman had not been okay ever since the murder of Hanifa.

He was troubled by stress related to the death of his spouse.

Defence attorney, Keitshegile Sechele had mitigated that “… the accused has not been well ever since his wife passed on. The matter has been traumatising him for close to 10 years”. Ordinarily, the prisons officers escorting Youngman after the sentence could have shackled his legs and hands to prevent him from escaping. Instead because of his condition, he was simply led to a waiting motor vehicle, and like the proverbial sheep to the slaughter, he meekly complied.As for Ketlogetswe, attired in his red robe on the day,  all eyes were on him. He was expected to deliver a life changing decision to both sides of the case. He doid not disappoint in the manner in which he presented his learned opinion.

He read out the sentence rather slowly, using a simple language sans the usual legal jargon for the benefit of a riveted audience.

He was audible enough for all and sundry to follow with ease the end of a marathon murder case that commenced 10 years ago. 

This case was particularly the talk of the town because of its nature.

Public interest in this particular case was always at its highest, hence people patiently waited for its logical end  despite delayed justice. Ketlogetswe will agree with the public that his interpreter was the only disappointment on the day. She often veered off the way with her interpretation in the vernacular.

Luckily, the sharp-witted judge would interject and rescue his seemingly bemused interpreter.

It was apparent that a sense of relief finally came to Youngman, who throughout the trial cut the figure of a worried man when Ketlogetswe sentenced him to 20 years’ imprisonment. But from the hissed conversations and sneers outside court, it will take a mammoth task to reconcile Youngman with his in-laws and members of the ZCC.

Perhaps even if it takes 20 years, or a lifetime.

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