By Patrick Chitumba
A 27-year-old Gweru man, has been sentenced to eight years in jail for fatally assaulting his sister whom he accused of being promiscuous after finding WhatsApp messages in her phone showing that she had six boyfriends.
Terrence Tarisai of Clifton Park in Gweru was yesterday sentenced to eight years in prison by Bulawayo High Court judge Maxwell Takuva sitting at the Gweru High Court circuit.
Tarisai pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to a lesser charge of culpable homicide following the death of his sister who was in Form Three.
Justice Takuva found him guilty of culpable homicide after a full trial.
“There is need for parents and guardians to avoid excessive force when disciplining their children because it leads to unnecessary loss of life. A young life was lost unnecessarily. The accused is found guilty of culpable homicide and is sentenced to eight years in prison. A year of his sentence is suspended on condition of good behaviour,” he said.
It was the State’s case as presented by prosecutor Ms Shalom Ndamuka Chikuni that Tarisai fatally assaulted his 16-year-old sister using a belt and a cord after accusing her of being promiscuous.
Tryphine was a Form Three pupil at Ascot High School in Gweru.
The court heard that on July 22 last year, Tarisai arrived home and discovered that his sister was not at home and had left her 10-year- old sister alone.
Tryphine later arrived at 6PM and upon being asked why she was late, she said she had gone to the shops.
Tarisai, the court heard, was not satisfied by her response before he took her cellphone and went through the deceased’s WhatsApp messages.
He discovered that Tryphine had numerous boyfriends and threatened to beat her up.
Tryphine, the court heard, ran away and sought refuge at her aunt’s place in Mtapa 7, Gweru and spent the night there.
The following morning, Tryphine’s aunt, Fungai Mugabe accompanied her back and found Tarisai at home.
Tarisai advised his aunt that he was going to beat his sister before ordering her to lie on the sofa facing downwards.
The court heard that Tarisai took a black cord and assaulted his sister on the buttocks, legs and arms for about 10 minutes.
Tryphine then confessed that she had six boyfriends before he ordered her to call all the boyfriends to end the relationships.
Tarisai took a black belt and continued assaulting his sister.
After the assault, Tryphine complained that she was feeling cold and was put on a bed to lay down.
At around 3PM, it was discovered that she had died and a report was made to the police leading to Tarisai’s arrest.
The deceased sustained bruises on her back, arms and legs as a result of the assault by her brother.
Prominent Gweru Lawyer Mr Esau Mandipa said corporal punishment was outlawed back in 2019 by the Constitutional Court in the case of the State v Willard Chokuramba.
“What it means is that no one has a right to administer corporal punishment on another person. However, there are exceptions in that at schools, only the headmaster can administer corporal punishment but within proportion,” he said.
At home, Mr Mandipa said only parents or guardians can administer corporal punishment in a manner that is not abusive.
He said there is a thin line between punishing a child and being abusive.
“So, the sentence in this matter is a lesson that for those who are legally allowed to administer corporal punishment, they should do so proportionally and the same should not be excessive as to lead to injuries or even death. For those who are not legally allowed to administer corporal punishment, they should stay within the ambits of the law and not take the law into their own hands,” said Mr Mandipa.
Overall, he said members of the community must desist from archaic ways of punishing their children when they do wrong.
“The law condones corporal punishment in all its forms since it is an affront to human rights especially the rights to personal security and bodily integrity. Other forms of punishment should be used for instance, in schools; Headmasters may impose punishment like digging a rubbish pit as opposed to corporal punishment. Then at home, children may be grounded, meaning parents or guardians may impose punishment like no pocket money, no going to movies, no watching television, no games and even no outing for the naughty child,” said Mr Mandipa.
Harare-based lawyer Mr Tinodaishe Chinyoka who has practised in the UK said hitting a child, for any reason, is never justifiable.
“It does not make the child better, but simply shows that the parent or guardian has failed to communicate their expectations to the child. It is also criminal,” he said.
“The line between parenting and child abuse is not always that clear. Some forms of punishment lead to killing of a human being through recklessness,” he said.
Gweru lawyer Mrs Takashinga Pamacheche Mbonesi urged people to find other ways of disciplining their children to avoid unnecessary loss of life and prosecution.
She said parents and headmasters can administer corporal punishment but it shouldn’t be excessive.
“Society is changing and as the upholding of children’s rights is amplified, the forms of parenting and discipline are changing. The new form of discipline is an attempt to circumvent violence against children which has been seen to be on the increase as well as the abuse of children. It remains a controversial area with opinions and beliefs not in unison,” she said. The Chronicle