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Kutumela sentencing welcomed

Sapa

The 20-year prison sentence imposed on Thato Kutumela, who raped and killed his pregnant teenage girlfriend Zanele Khumalo was welcomed by her father.

Thato Kutumela. (Phil Magakoe)

"He will understand that human life is only given by God," Themba Khumalo told reporters after sentencing in the High Court in Pretoria. "We do hope that one day he will reach out to us and say I'm sorry instead of showing no remorse."

Khumalo said a huge burden was lifted from the family's shoulders. He expressed relief at 26-year-old Kutumela's sentence. His visibly emotional wife Busi, their two daughters and family and friend were in court on Friday. They sat in the front row of the public gallery wearing black t-shirts bearing her face with the words "Nothing was in vain" printed on the back.

Her father said: "We will not hold grudges forever, we are not that kind of people. Only once he has stepped forward to say he is sorry, only then can we consider forgiveness."

A pregnant 18-year-old Khumalo was found dead in her parents' home in Garsfontein, Pretoria East, in April 2011. Her naked body was under a blanket on her bed when her parents arrived home from work. They rushed her to hospital, but she had by then been dead for about six hours.

Judge Johan Kruger sentenced Kutumela to 20 years in prison for murder, 10 years in prison for rape, and six months in prison for theft, to run concurrently. As Kruger read out the sentences people in the public gallery said "yes" and "amen". After sentencing, as Kutumela, dressed in white, made his way down to the cells, people in court applauded.

The government welcomed the sentence. "This sentencing serves as a deterrent to other perpetrators and a clear demonstration that the wheels of justice in South Africa are continuously turning," acting Government Communication and Information System chief executive Harold Maloka said.

"Government will not tolerate violence against women and children and commends the judicial system and law enforcement agencies for its tireless efforts in ensuring that justice in this case is served." He said government had put systems in place such as the recently launched pilot phase of the command centre on gender-based violence to protect the rights of women and children.

The centre was aimed at providing psychological help and referral to people affected by gender-based violence, and help them avoid more exposure to violence. In November last year, Kutumela was found guilty of murdering and raping the mother of his unborn child. He was also found guilty of stealing the teenager's nightclothes and underwear to hide the fact that he had raped her.

Harsher sentence

However, the sentence could have been harsher, said the ANC Women's League said on Saturday. "While we think that a more harsher sentence could have been handed down, we are however comfortable that the 20 year sentence will send a strong message to other potential abusers out there and serve as a deterrent," national spokeswoman Edna Molewa said.

She said the sentencing was a victory for justice and an indication that society did not tolerate women abuse. "It is sad that a young woman… was killed by a person they expected to protect them."

Molewa said Thato Kutumela's behaviour was disappointing and that he showed no remorse. "This is an indication that as society and as mothers, we need to ensure that we inculcate at an early age, values in our children that shows respect for life."

She called on society to assist in eradicating the scourge of women and children abuse. – Sapa

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