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TWO brothers who murdered their stepfather after watching him abuse their mother and said they suspected him of “bewitching” her and causing her to become ill, were sentenced to undergo an effective 15 years’ imprisonment each by acting Judge Kobus Booyens in Pietermaritzburg on Friday.
Nkanyiso Bright Shelembe (24) and Philani Goodman Shelembe (19) pleaded guilty to the murder of Bhekumuzi Mbanjwa, who was shot dead in his sleep at Mpophomeni on June 11 this year.
The brothers admitted they stole Mbanjwa’s 9 mm pistol, with which they committed the murder.
Nkanyiso Shelembe told Judge Booyens that he fired three shots at his stepfather with the intention of killing him.
Both revealed in reply to questions from the court that Mbanjwa physically assaulted their mother for years, causing her to be hospitalised in 2005. She obtained a protection order against him.
In their statement to court they said some time prior to the murder, their mother became ill.
On June 10 they took her to an inyanga, who told them that she had been “bewitched” by a close family member.
“The inyanga told us that we should not take my mother to hospital for admission as she would die. The inyanga told us we should perform a ritual at home to appease the ancestors and return to her the following day for further treatment,” said Nkanyiso.
He said on June 11 the siblings took their mother to hospital to have sores cleaned and dressed. Mbanjwa insisted that she be admitted against her wishes and theirs.
The brothers said they argued with him, but Mbanjwa said that as she was his wife he could “do as he pleased”. They then realised that he wanted her to die.
The brothers said their mother was not in fact admitted to hospital. However, en route home in a taxi the two of them discussed the matter and decided it was clear that Mbanjwa was the close family member to whom the inyanga had referred.
They decided to kill Mbanjwa.
They stole his firearm from the bedroom, and that night when he was asleep Nkanyiso shot him.
Both said they are remorseful for what they had done.
Booyens said the accused’s belief in witchcraft was irrelevant to the sentence. “Parliament has decided that people who come to court and say they have killed somebody because he bewitched a person should not receive any mercy,” he said.
However, he said he regarded as mitigating the long history of maltreatment of their mother by Mbanjwa, as well as the youthfulness of the brothers and said these were factors justifying a sentence less than life imprisonment.