WINDHOEK – An HIV-positive mother pleaded with the court for leniency yesterday, but to no avail, after she was found guilty of stealing food valued at N$277.82 at a shop in Windhoek. Martha Matheus, the 34-year-old mother of four children, of whom the youngest is seven months, told the court she stole to feed her children as well as to have something to eat, telling the court that as an HIV-positive person she cannot breastfeed her infant.
It was an explanation that Magistrate Hileni Kavara of the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court did not accept. Kavara said Matheus’ personal circumstances far outweighs all other factors, however being HIV-positive did not give Matheus the licence to go into shops and take whatever she wants. Matheus was fined N$300 or 30 days in prison.
Matheus was arrested on Saturday, October 12, for shoplifting at Pick n Pay Supermarket. According to the charge sheet Matheus stole eight packets of Knorr rice savoury at N$7.99 each, seven cans of pilchards valued at N$17.99, one Flora medium fat spread worth N$53.99, one bottle of Sunflower oil worth N$15.99 and one Omaere Sweet at N$17.99. She was granted police bail of N$200 the same day.
Matheus pleaded with magistrate Kavara to give her a second chance, saying she stole to feed her children as she is unable to breastfeed her seven-month-old because of her HIV status. She also pleaded for a second chance, which she says she would use to return to the north, as life in Windhoek has been very harsh and unforgiving.
State prosecutor Oscar Sinvula wanted the court to make Matheus an example saying that while he has sympathy for Matheus, the offence of shoplifting is increasing at an alarming rate especially in the district of Windhoek. Sinvula also said resorting to stealing is not an option even if one is HIV positive. Sinvula, however said that Matheus did not waste the court’s time as she entered a plea of guilty at the first opportunity and proposed a fine of N$500 or three months’ imprisonment.
A merciful magistrate Kavara took pity on Matheus and reduced the fine to N$300, telling Matheus that even though there was no baby formula between the stolen food, the fact that she stole food counted in her favour.
By Roland Routh