Man walks free for culpable homicide

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By Tanaka Mrewa

A Bulawayo man was given a wholly suspended four-year sentence for causing the death of his 13-year-old nephew who suffocated due to excessive heat when he left him locked in a car.

Herbert Chipango (23) sobbed throughout the court hearing on Tuesday when he appeared facing a culpable homicide charge.

Bulawayo Regional Magistrate Mrs Sibongile Msipa-Marondedze heard that last month, Chipango was assigned by the child’s father Mr Mhlomuli Sibanda to collect his wife Maureen Chipango from the City Hall in the city centre.

Chipango locked his nephew, a mental patient, in a car and parked it under a tree near Imbizo Barracks, with all its windows closed and took a commuter omnibus into town.

It was not stated why Chipango could not drive the car into town. It is the State’s case that the child bled from the nose and mouth, had blisters on both legs and arms due to suffocation.

Chipango pleaded guilty to the offence.

He cried as his lawyer, Mr Gary Sengweni of T. Hara and Partners mitigated on his behalf.

Mr Sengweni explained to the court that Chipango was the custodian of the deceased child for the past seven years.

He said when the unfortunate incident occurred, he co-operated with the police during investigations.

“Your Worship, accused person is admitting to the offence and the court documents are based on his testimony to the police. He has genuinely pleaded guilty and has expressed remorse over the unfortunate incident. Losing a nephew that he has been living with for the past seven years is already punishment enough for him,” said Mr Sengweni.

“May this court also take into consideration that the accused had tried to leave the now deceased with their neighbours but they were not available at the time. He exercised caution by leaving the car securely locked and parked under a tree since it was hot. It’s unfortunate the actions of caution resulted in death.”

Magistrate Msipa-Marondedze sentenced Chipango to four years in jail which was wholly suspended.

“This court has ruled that the mitigatory factors in this matter outweigh the aggravatory ones. Taking into consideration the age of the accused, this court realised that accused is not a very seasoned driver that is why he failed to consider leaving the windows to the car slightly opened while he went to meet his sister,” she said.

“However culpable homicide is a serious offence and is now prevalent. A fine or community service as sentence would trivialise the offence. Members of the public should be warned of its gravity. A wholly suspended prison term would be more suitable as it will shepherd the accused person for a long time. This will allow him another chance in life as well as rehabilitation.”

Prosecuting, Ms Lerato Tshuma said a doctor from Mbizo Barracks who was called to the scene confirmed the death of the child.

“A post-mortem was done at United Bulawayo Hospitals. The medical affidavit confirmed that the child died of suffocation caused by excessive heat,” said Ms Tshuma. The Chronicle