‘Mthinta Bhengu must be removed from society’

He has been sentenced to 17 years in prison and has a previous conviction for a violent crime.

Convicted murderer Mthinta Bhengu holds his hat over his face as he enters the dock ahead of sentencing in the murder case of Emmanuel Sithole in the Johannesburg Magistrate's court. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Johannesburg Magistrates Court has heard that one of Emmanuel Sithole's killers is a danger to the public and must be removed from society.

Mthinta Bhengu has been sentenced to 17 years in prison while his accomplice, Sifundo Mzimela, has been handed 10 years behind bars.

The pair stabbed Sithole, also known as Emmanuel Josias, to death in Alexandra during xenophobic violence in April last year after he had failed to pay for cigarettes.

Magistrate Lucas van der Schyff says he is shocked that two young people committed such a serious crime.

Van der Schyff says Sithole was unarmed and posed no threat when the two attacked him.

"He wasn't satisfied after stabbing him once, he stabbed him the second time. We do not know what would have happened if other people had not stopped to intervene. It is not acceptable that a person should be killed in this manner."

Bhengu has a previous conviction for a violent crime, which is one of the reasons why he received a heavier sentence of 17 years.

The court found that Mzimela helped attack Sithole later on, which counted in his favour, and he was given a lesser sentence of 10 years.

Van der Schyff says Bhengu has shown no remorse and instead still blames the Mozambican vender for what happened.

He says there is a clear difference between remorse and regret.

He says Bhengu's remorse is not genuine.

"The penitence must be sincere and the accused must take the court fully of his confidence. In this case, accused number one is clearly not really remorseful and he still blames he deceased."

Meanwhile, Mzimela asked his mother to apologise to the Sithole family on his behalf in court.

HOW SOCIETY RESPONDS TO CRIME

The court also heard that Sithole's death has forced society to reflect on how it responds to crime in a country where criminals feel at liberty to attack victims in full view of the public.

The last moments of Sithole were captured by a newspaper photographer and went viral during the xenophobic violence.

Van der Schyff says the photographs of Sithole's last moments, as he begged for mercy, have forced society to share his pain and fear.

At the time, the public was divided over whether it was necessary to publish the graphic photographs in the media.

The magistrate says with the high crime levels in the country, the public seems to forget how the families of the victims are affected.

"We deal with murder cases so often that we tend to forget that the victims were once living, breathing and human beings, they tend to be little more statistics. This is perhaps wrong."

He says if this murder can make society realise how families are affected by crime, then maybe Sithole didn't die in vain.