Mantsoe apologises for burning, not murdering Mokoena

“I just lost it and switched off mentally. I can’t describe it in words but I panicked. A lot of things just built up.” Mantsoe said. (Veli Nhlapo/Sowetan)

“I just lost it and switched off mentally. I can’t describe it in words but I panicked. A lot of things just built up.” Mantsoe said. (Veli Nhlapo/Sowetan)

Sandile Mantsoe took the stand to apologise to Karabo Mokoena’s family for burning her body, but he would not admit to killing her.

On Wednesday, Mantsoe was found guilty of assault with the intent to cause bodily harm, murder and defeating the ends of justice. He was sentenced to five years in prison for assault, 30 years for murder and four years for defeating the ends of justice.

Mantsoe first addressed how he was a deeply religious man and claims that he helped many people find “religious truths”.

“I’d like to offer my apology for all of the pain I’ve caused to Mokoena’s family and my family, to her friends and the community,” he said.

He went on to say that he accepted the court’s ruling adding that prison would be a beneficial experience for him.

“It’s not the end and I think it will afford me an opportunity to rebuild myself and positively influence people,” said Mantsoe.

Defence counsel Victor Simelane asked Mantsoe to describe his relationship with Mokoena which Mantsoe agreed was tumultuous. However, Mantsoe said he believed that he and Mokoena brought out the good in each other. His shortcomings about being in a committed relationship, he believed, prevented them from having a successful relationship.

“I feel like I failed her in the sense that I wasn’t patient enough … I disappointed her because I didn’t want to be a person who settles down.”

He claimed that he was saving her from her so-called troubled past. Mokoena’s family sitting scoffed audibly as he went on to say how he “inspired her”.

Several family members had to leave the courtroom sobbing after Mantsoe criticised the Mokoenas for preventing Mokoena from achieving more in life.

“The same people who are here today never gave her that opportunity,” he told the court, referring to Mokoena’s family. “My actions are unjustifiable but sharing that part to the family would put me at ease. I couldn’t say I don’t know what happened. She was a wonderful person.”

State advocate Pakanyiswa Marasela then took the stand to cross-examine Mantsoe. She first asked why it took so long to apologise to the Mokoena family.

Mantsoe claimed that he had apologised before in a letter, which he had written with the help of his family. He has claimed to have sent the letter to her home and claimed the family received it. But, he speculated that either they did not open it or the letter was handed over to the police.

Marasela then asked what the apology was for. Mantsoe replied, “for burning Karabo.”

Mantsoe was then asked if he was guilty of Mokoena’s murder. He responded, “The circumstances are on the court finding me guilty. I didn’t kill Karabo.”

Mokoena’s family hung their heads. Mantsoe’s family and friends sat behind the accused on the verge of tears.

“I just lost it and switched off mentally. I can’t describe it in words but I panicked. A lot of things just built up.” Mantsoe said.

Marasela raised her voice, arguing it did not appear he that he panicked. Rather, Marasela said, he had taken the steps chronologically. Mantsoe retorted, claiming he’s “a very smart guy” and if he had killed her, he would have done it differently.

Mokoena’s family scoffed once again and sighed as Mantsoe continued by stating that Mokoena was sometimes difficult to “handle”.

Marasela asked why he didn’t apologise in court and Mantsoe said that there was “no opportunity”.

The judge interrupted stating that Mantsoe did not apologise as he didn’t show remorse for her murder.

Marasela then brought up the Bible verse, “thou shalt not kill” and asked if Mantsoe if he was aware of this verse.

He affirmed, but then replied that “the Bible also says as much as you hate a man you are also committing the sin of killing.”

The court laughed in shock. He then continued, “I am remorseful for moving Karabo’s body, for taking it out of my apartment in the panicked state I was in and burning that body.”

Marasela then asked, “How would this sit with you if this happens to one of your children?”

“It would hurt me,” he replied.

Mantsoe then stepped down.

Arielle Schwartz

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