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Judge to Lucky Dube killers: 'You showed no mercy, and I extend no mercy'

ROT IN HELL: The three men who killed Lucky Dube. Sifiso Mhlanga, who pulled the trigger, is seated far left. Next to him is Julius Gxowa and the driver of the gateaway car, Mbuti Mabe, is far right
ROT IN HELL: The three men who killed Lucky Dube. Sifiso Mhlanga, who pulled the trigger, is seated far left. Next to him is Julius Gxowa and the driver of the gateaway car, Mbuti Mabe, is far right

HUMANITARIAN: Lucky Dube's former guitarist told the court of the slain singer's charitable work
HUMANITARIAN: Lucky Dube's former guitarist told the court of the slain singer's charitable work
KILLER WEAPON: The gun used in the shooting ogf Lucky Dube is displayed in court
KILLER WEAPON: The gun used in the shooting ogf Lucky Dube is displayed in court


Posted to the web: 02/03/2009 17:07:13
A JUDGE sentenced three men convicted of murdering an internationally known South African reggae star in a botched carjacking to life in prison on Thursday.

Lucky Dube's 2007 killing drew worldwide attention to crime in South Africa, which has one of the world's highest murder rates. The 43-year-old singer was gunned down in his car in front of his children in suburban Johannesburg.

"The accused showed no mercy for the deceased," Judge Seun Moshidi said. "It is difficult for the court to extend any mercy today."

Sifiso Mhlanga, Mbuti Mabe and Julius Gxowa were convicted Tuesday in Dube's death. Hours before the verdict was announced, Mabe and Mhlanga assaulted police officers in a foiled bid to escape from the court.

Thokozani Dube, who was in the car when his father was shot, broke into tears as the sentences were announced and was comforted by his mother.

"I'm satisfied. ... I have closure," he later said outside the courtroom.

Dube's family members and their supporters gathered outside the courthouse and sang South Africa's national anthem.

"I'm happy with the ruling even though it will never bring him back," said Thuthukani Cele, a keyboardist who had worked with Dube for 24 years.

He vowed to keep Dube's spirit alive, saying: "We owe it to Lucky and the world. ... We just wanted to finish this before we open a new chapter."

Dube, who launched his career in the 1980s with criticism of the apartheid regime, went on to become a huge international star. He recorded more than 20 albums and shared stages with the likes of Michael Jackson, Peter Gabriel, Ziggy Marley and Sting.

The singer won over 20 awards locally and internationally. His first album, released in 1984 with the title "Rastas Never Die," was banned by South Africa's apartheid government.

During the trial, Judge Seun Moshidi said the court did not have evidence that Dube was the target that night and that he was rather a victim of a botched hijacking.

Advocate Lethabo Mashiane, for the prosecution, agreed with him saying Dube "was at the wrong place at the wrong time".

The judge convicted the three men of murder, robber with aggravating circumstances, hijacking and possession of firearm and ammunition at the end of the trial on Tuesday.

Judge Moshidi then ordered that Thabo Maropeng, an accomplice who turned state witness, be discharged from any prosecution arising from the case.

“His evidence was satisfactory to the court,” he said.

Maropeng was the key state witness who provided details of how Dube was killed by him and the three men.

Maropeng, who was present during the botched hijack, told the court that Mhlanga had fired the shots that killed Dube.

Driving in the Rosettenville suburb in a stolen Polo Playa, Maropeng explained to the court that they were targeting cars parked outside a driveway or moving into or out of a driveway.

"Accused number one (Mhlanga) got out of the Polo and approached the left passenger seat which had its door open, while accused number two (Gxowa) went to the driver's side and opened the door."

His evidence supports that by a fingerprint expert who testified last week that fingerprints found inside Dube's Chrysler on the driver’s window were Gxowa's and those lifted from a silver panel on the rear left door were a positive match to Mhlanga's.
Maropeng said he heard Mhlanga ordering the passengers out, while Gxowa was involved in a struggle with Dube who was intending to drive off.

"He wanted to drive off. His hands were on the gear [stick], so Gxowa grabbed him and they were busy struggling in front."

During this time, Maropeng said, he got out of the Polo and was walking towards Gxowa and saw a passenger who had been sitting in front run out and disappear.

"The driver (Lucky Dube) hooted and then I heard a gunshot fired by Mhlanga, who was inside the car. Gxowa was still struggling with the driver and then a second shot went off and I ran back to the Polo and instructed accused number three (Mabe) who was the driver to drive off and leave them."

Both Gxowa and Mhlanga moved away from the car as Dube reversed off the driveway.

"We (he and Mabe) had already driven off from the scene and Mabe stopped at the corner just before the next street and saw the Chrysler speed off straight down the road with accused one and two running behind before they jumped into the Polo," Maropeng said.

When asked by the State prosecutor if he knew what ultimately happened to the Chrysler, he replied: "No, but I heard a loud bang as if a vehicle was colliding into something."

Dube, bleeding profusely, had lost control of the car which crashed into a tree.
When confronted by Mabe to explain why he had shot at Dube, Mhlanga – according to Maropeng’s testimony -- is said to have replied: “The Nigerian doesn't want to give up the car. It means there was money in the car.”

Judge Moshidi also referred to Mhlanga, Gxowa and Mabe’s alibis as blatant lies.

“Your alibis were not only false beyond reasonable doubt, they were also contradicted by your own girlfriends,” he said to Mhlanga and Gxowa, who both claimed they had been relaxing at home with their girlfriends at the time Dube was killed.

South Africa has one of the world's highest rates of violent crime, with frequent murders, rapes and carjackings.

MURDER SCENE: Lucky Dube's killers drove off in his Chrysler before crashing it against a tree. They hijacked another car a day later
MURDER SCENE: A wounded Lucky Dube managed to drive off from his killers but crashed his Chrysler into a tree after succumbing to his injuries

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