By Mashudu Netsianda
A man from Nkayi who killed his handicapped three-year-old son and secretly buried his body in a shallow grave has been sentenced to an effective 25 years in jail.
Jeremaya Sibanda (39) of Sikhobokhobo village struck his son, Forgiveness, using a blunt object on the head, killing him instantly before he wrapped the toddler in a blanket and buried the body in a shallow grave in his backyard.
Sibanda killed his son at Lot 032 Umguza Irrigation Scheme in Umguza District after prophets claimed the toddler was a goblin.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo on Wednesday convicted Sibanda of murder with actual intent.
In passing the sentence, Justice Moyo condemned Sibanda’s conduct, describing it as an abominable act, which called for the death penalty since the murder was committed under aggravating circumstances.
“The accused person committed an abominable act when he killed his own son due to the fact that he had an incurable disability. The murder was committed in aggravating circumstances in that he killed a minor who was disabled. The circumstances of this case show a frustrated man who resorted to crime because he was faced with a situation that he could not contain and faith healers did not help the situation either,” she said.
The judge said although the belief in witchcraft by Sibanda was not an excuse for killing his disabled son, the court was obliged to consider the effect the accused person’s belief in witchcraft had on his action.
“Where the crime was committed in aggravating circumstances, the death sentence is not the only prescribed sentence, especially like in this case where there is an element of mitigation that reduces the moral blameworthiness of the accused person. It is for these reasons that capital punishment is excluded in this case,” said Justice Moyo.
The judge said the courts have a duty to protect the sanctity of human life through passing harsh sentences.
“The courts frown upon such conduct and a lengthy custodial sentence given the circumstances of this case where a life is unnecessarily lost is warranted. A strong message must be sent out there that this court does not take lightly the loss of life through violence. Accordingly, the accused person is sentenced to 25 years imprisonment,” ruled Justice Moyo
Prosecuting, Ms Nokuthaba Ngwenya said on June 21 in 2015 at around 2PM, Sibanda was left at home by his wife who had tasked him to look after their son while she went to do laundry at a nearby canal.
The court heard that soon after his wife’s departure, Sibanda hatched a plan to kill his disabled son.
He took an unknown blunt object and struck the deceased on the head and he died on the spot. Sibanda left the body lying on the floor in the dining room and followed his wife.
“After committing the offence, the accused person followed his wife to inform her about the death. Upon arrival, Accurate queried her son’s death and demanded an explanation from her husband after discovering that the toddler was bleeding through the nose, mouth and ears,” said Ms Ngwenya.
The court heard that Sibanda threatened to kill his wife if she divulged the information to anyone about what had transpired.
The following day, Sibanda took the body to the bathroom and bathed it in a tub before wrapping it in a blanket. He then dug a shallow grave at their backyard and buried the body.
Two days later, Sibanda escorted his wife to the bus stop so that she could catch a bus to Binga where she was to deliver the news of the death to her parents.
“In their bid to conceal the murder, Sibanda told his wife to go back to her rural home in Binga and return after three years,” said Ms Ngwenya.
Upon the wife’s arrival in Binga, she informed her mother Ms Lucia Nyoni and a report was made to police leading to Sibanda’s arrest.
In mitigation through his lawyer, Mr Byron Sengweni of Sengweni Legal Practice, Sibanda pleaded for leniency, saying his actions were driven by a belief in witchcraft. He said he was advised by prophets to kill his son because they told him that he was a goblin. The Chronicle