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Man jailed 3 years for murdering brother during fight over relish, escapes custodial sentence

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By Staff Reporter


Gweru High Court judge, Justice Evangelista Kabasa has jailed one Nkululeko Mabhena for three years following a conviction for killing his brother in cold blood after a dispute over relish.

Mabhena however had his sentence wholly suspended conditionally.

He appeared in court on a charge of murder but was convicted of a lesser charge after the court established that he had acted in self-defence.

A plea of not guilty was entered although the accused admitted killing the now deceased.

The State alleged that on 30 July 2020, the two brothers had a misunderstanding over what relish they were to eat that evening.

“The two had a dispute over relish with the accused wanting the dried meat he believed was in the now deceased’s bedroom.  The two went together to check and found nothing.

“Whereupon the now deceased suggested that Mabhena prepare okra instead.

“Mabhena however did not want okra and so asked for a gallon of maize to use in exchange for vegetables,” said prosecutors.

Mabhena said his brother remarked that the accused was disrespectful, slapped him, closed the door to that bedroom and took the axe handle with which he wanted to assault him.

As a result of the misunderstanding the accused took a knife and stabbed the now-deceased in the chest leading to his death.

“The accused then tied a rope to the deceased’s neck and loaded the body into a wheelbarrow, pushed it for about 80 m and dumped the body along the road,” the court heard.

In his defence, Mabhena did not deny inflicting the injury which resulted in the death of the now deceased.

He however explained that he was defending himself as the now deceased had slapped him and was threatening to assault him using an axe handle.

He therefore prayed for a conviction on the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

The accused who had a knife which he had brought to cut the dried meat used that knife to stab the now-deceased.

In panic, he loaded the body onto the wheelbarrow and dumped it on the road.

Kabasa said Mabhena’s action was not reasonable in all the circumstances.

“The accused is accordingly found not guilty of murder but guilty of culpable homicide.

“The accused is a 34-year-old first offender. From the outset he accepted that the deceased died at his hands and accepted causing the death,” said the judge.

The judge also took into consideration that throughout the trial Mabhena expressed regret and was genuinely remorseful.

He also considered that he spent 3½ years in pre-trial incarceration.

Mabhena had been granted bail but was not able to raise the US$100.

“The fact that none of his relatives were prepared to pay the bail for him is probably indicative of their attitude towards him.

“The taking of his own brother’s life is likely to haunt him for the rest of his life.

“Society will label him a murderer who killed his brother and that is a burden that can be heavy to carry,” said the judge.

Kabasa also said that psychological imprisonment is likely to be far worse than the imprisonment that comes with the four corners of a prison cell.

“Aggravating is the fact that a life was unnecessarily lost. Life is precious and a gift given to each one of us which should not be taken by another human being.

“Given the 3 ½ years the accused has been in prison, the conviction on the lesser offence of culpable homicide, his genuine show of remorse and regret and the stigma that he will now live with for the rest of his life, a wholly suspended sentence would meet the justice of the case.

He ruled, “Accused is accordingly sentenced to three years imprisonment the whole of which is suspended for 5 years on condition the accused does not within that period commit an offence of which an assault or violence on the person of another is an element and for which upon conviction he is sentenced to a term of imprisonment without the option of a fine.”