Murder convict Master Goitsemang escaped the hangman’s noose by delivering an impressive mitigation that convinced Justice Modiri Letsididi of the Francistown High Court that there were extenuating circumstances when Goitsemang chopped his girlfriend to death with an axe in Mathangwane on March 24, 2011.
The mitigation included a turnaround by Goitsemang that there had been only he and his girlfriend Zibiso Faros on the fateful night when he had said there had been a third party in his evidence.It is said that on 24 March 2011 Goitsemang murdered his girlfriend Zibiso Faros at Mathangwane where Faros resided with an axe. The judge said Goitsemang had seen fit to tell the truth and sentenced him to 18 years imprisonment.
In his evidence, Goitsemang had said he had picked up his girlfriend at around 6pm in Francistown after she knocked off from Spar supermarket where she worked and they had driven to Mathangwane where his girlfriend resided. When they arrived at the woman’s parents’ home in Mathangwane, they greeted the woman’s father and took a key from him in order to gain entry into the house. Goitsemang then fell asleep on the couch as he was tired and had taken a few beers earlier on the day. He was woken up by a knock on the door after which a man named Sephiri entered the house and asked about Goitsemang’s girlfriend.
An argument ensued between the two men during which Sephiri slapped Goitsemang on the cheek. Sephiri then drew a knife and made to attack Goitsemang with it, trying to kill him. The woman went outside where Goitsemang found her holding an axe which he took from her. In the melee, he tried to flee from the scene but was prevented by a closed gate. Whereupon he brandished the axe and thrust it at his girlfriend, thinking she was Sephiri.
However, Justice Letsididi dismissed this aspect of Goitsemang’s evidence as an afterthought, saying Goitsemang had never told the police upon being arrested that a third party had been involved. He had, the judge said, admitted that the sandals found at the scene were his. The judge noted that under cross-examination, Goitsemang had avoided the question of how many times he had swung the axe. In this instance, Justice Letsididi quoted Goitsemang verbatim: “’I cannot say because I did not know what I was doing. I was just chopping,’” he said.
Significantly, Justice Letsididi said he had no doubt that Goitsemang’s intention was to cause death or grievous harm when he hit the deceased. He added that the evidence led by the second and third witnesses was reliable because they were there during the incident and they had no reason to lie because they did not have anything against the accused. The second witness had even tried to intervene but was turned away by Goitsemang who threatened to kill him as well if he came near him. Justice Letsididi noted that Goitsemang had subsequently alerted a neighbour that he had killed a girl, which left no doubt that he had all along known what he was doing.
“The two witnesses told the court the truth, and in my mind I see the fight was between two people. There was no third party involved because the accused never sustained any injuries, though he said he was defending himself ... The accused is convicted of murder.” Justice Letsididi concluded.
On Wednesday this week, defence counsel Isaac Seleka said Goitsemang was provoked by the way the deceased had replied when he asked her who had called her on the phone. His intoxication should also be borne in mind because it had reduced his capacity to think properly. The murder was not planned, and Faros’ father had said the two had appeared happy when they picked up the key from him at Mathangwane Clinic on their way home, Seleka said.
However, prosecutor Barayang Diondo said there were no extenuating circumstances and that chasing after the deceased showed that there was intention to kill because Goitsemang should have cooled down when the deceased ran away.Nevertheless, Justice Letsididi said the death penalty could not apply in light of the new evidence that Goitsemang had given. Goitsemang was clearly consumed by jealousy because according to his new evidence, the deceased had received a call from a man during the fateful night and her reply to Goitsemang’s question about the caller had been provocative.
Justice Letsididi said in sentencing, he looked at the fact that Goitsemang was a first offender and a breadwinner with four children. He also said Goitsemang had consumed alcohol on the fateful night, affecting his capacity to differentiate between right and wrong. Even so, the judge said, Goitsemang had taken the life of a young woman who had the right to life.The crime was perpetrated against a defenceless woman who had tried to run away to save her life and the injuries she sustained were brutal. “Eighteen years imprisonment is a proper sentence for you. If you are not happy, you will go to the Court of Appeal within six weeks starting from today,” Justice Letsididi said.