Controversy over Mawisa’s Sentence

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The 18-year jail term handed to Lungile Mawisa last week Friday has attracted mixed feelings, with some people blaming the court for being too lenient while others say it is justified. Prosecutor Sandra Miller yesterday could not say whether the State would appeal against the sentence, saying it was too early to comment. There is no Act in the country that prescribes the length of the jail term to be served by every one convicted of murder. In the case of Mawisa, the Prosecutor said the perpetrator was a juvenile at the time he committed the crime. After analysis by court, he was found to have been immature although all aggravating circumstances under which the crime was committed could not be overlooked. Executive Director of the Namibian National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), Phil ya Nangolo, is of the opinion that the act was brutal and as such, Mawisa deserves a longer sentence. On the other hand, he says considering that this was Mawisa’s first crime at such a young age, the sentence is in order. Director of the Legal Assistance Centre, Norman Tjombe, says the sentence was lenient, but the presiding judge raised valid concerns why the Court imposed such a sentence, which looked at both the aggravating and mitigating factors. However, it is still a concern that the sentence in cases of violence against women and children is not reflective of the brutal and violent nature of these offences, and the frequency with which they occur, which have long since spiralled out of control. He added: “The 18-year imprisonment term imposed on Mawisa also appears to be lenient since the law prescribes minimum sentences for stock theft of up to 20 years of imprisonment, which is in itself draconian and out of proportion with the offence.” This unfortunate discrepancy, Tjombe says, needs to be dealt with by law reform in order to clear the negative public perception that animal life is more important than human life. According to Tjombe, Mawisa’s sentence is also a good reminder to all that even the longest period of imprisonment is not the only answer to gender-based violence, but there is need to make much more effort to eradicate the root causes, which is inequality of the sexes. The mother of the deceased, Elina Akwenye was not happy with the sentence given to Mawisa, saying it was too low for a murderer who had killed two people. According to Akwenye, Mawisa deserves to serve 30 or 45 years imprisonment. “I will seek guidance from my family on whether we should appeal to the Supreme Court because 18 years is too little for a man who killed my daughter and his unborn child,” she said. They said the law respected animals more than the lives of the people. Mawisa was sentenced on Friday last week after he was found guilty by judge Kato van Niekerk for brutally killing his17-year-old pregnant girlfriend, Ipula Akwenye, in 2003. In passing sentence, judge Van Niekerk said that after Mawisa was found guilty, he showed no remorse for the crime he had committed. Judge Van Niekerk imposed the sentence of 18 years imprisonment to prevent others from committing the same crime and to protect society, saying the interest of society was served by passing an appropriate sentence. Mawisa, a former student of the Delta High School, was convicted during judgment last Monday and found guilty of direct intent to kill. During the trial Mawisa, who was 17 years at the time of the murder, denied being guilty of killing Ipula whose body was found in a patch of veld near the Bach Street Power Station in Windhoek West. He later admitted in court that he had killed her because he was provoked. Ipula was killed after being constantly hit with stones and an axe handle on the head by Mawisa. Mawisa was born in Windhoek on June 5, 1985. His father is a Xhosa from South Africa while his mother is a Damara-speaking Namibian. He had no record of violent criminal acts apart from a few drunken driving incidents.