By Leonard Ncube in Hwange
A MAN from Nkayi has been sentenced to six years in jail for fatally whipping a neighbour’s seven-year-old son with a switch for bunking lessons.
Owen Vundla (42) allegedly fled and lived as a fugitive at St Peter’s Village in Bulawayo following the incident in 2008.
He was arrested in February last year.
Vundla pleaded not guilty to murder and was found guilty of a lesser charge of culpable homicide by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Maxwell Takuva, who is on circuit in Hwange.
The court heard how Vundla found his son and the now deceased hiding in a stream after they had absconded school and assaulted them. He beat up the boys before tying them together by their hands and running them to school. His neighbour’s son collapsed along the way and died.
Justice Takuva said the courts would not condone any form of abuse of minors and would give deterrent sentences to anyone who violated their rights.
“While your intention may have been noble, your conduct exceeded limits because you injured the deceased until he vomited due to aspiration,” said the judge.
“The courts won’t condone any form of abuse of children. You could have simply followed them to school instead of beating them up,” he said.
Justice Takuva said there were more aggravating circumstances than mitigatory although Vundla had compensated the deceased boy’s parents with two cows, a scotchcart, a disc harrow and five doors while his parents’ homestead was destroyed on the instruction of the headman because of his actions.
“In aggravation, your actions led to loss of a young life. What makes the case bad is that instead of seeking medical assistance, you hid the body and escaped. This makes imprisonment appropriate. This is a bad case of culpable homicide because it arose from use of violence and a weapon was used hence a deterrent sentence will be passed so that people know that the courts are not lenient on people who abuse children,” he said.
“The court took into account that you are a first offender and the courts treat first offenders with leniency. They are spared jail life wherever possible. A plea of guilty is rewarded because you didn’t waste the court’s time. The court also considered that you are contrite because in some way you compensated the family and it’s also mitigatory that your home was destroyed and that you spent 12 months in pre-trial incarceration but that’s because you became a fugitive.”
The judge sentenced Vundla to six years in jail with two suspended for five years. His pro-deo defence lawyer, Mr Knowledge Dingani of Mlweli Ndlovu and Partners, had pleaded for a lighter sentence saying his client had shown remorse by compensating the boy’s family. Prosecuting, Ms Namatirayi Ngwasha said Vundla was cruel as he fled the scene after killing the boy in 2008 until his arrest last year in February.
“May the court protect the sanctity of life because a young life was lost. It’s true he was acting in loco parentis but he used excessive force and hid the body and fled. May he be given a sentence that will deter would-be offenders,” said the prosecutor.
Ms Ngwasha said the fatal assault took place at Thiyatshwapha Village in Nkayi on June 30, 2008 when the two lads absconded school and hid in a stream.
The deceased collapsed and Vundla carried him on his shoulder but dumped the body and covered it with a tree branch before fleeing. His son proceeded to school and a village search team recovered the boy a day later.