Three men were sentenced to 15 years’ direct imprisonment by the Mothibistad Regional Court after they were found guilty of murdering the brother of one of the accused.
THREE murder accused – Lucas Hantise, Lebogang Mphatwe and Lazarus Abel – were sentenced to 15 years’ direct imprisonment by the Mothibistad Regional Court after they tied a man to a tree and assaulted him with sjambok.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) regional spokesperson Mojalefa Senokoatsane said on Thursday that the incident took place on January 12, 2019, when Lazarus Abel suspected his brother, Itumeleng Abel, of stealing his cellphone.
“The accused last saw his cellphone in his vehicle where his younger brother was sleeping the previous night. The police officer at Batlharos village instructed him to return later when he tried to report the matter, as he was smelling strongly of alcohol. Frustrated by the actions of the police officer, the accused decided to seek assistance from the local tribal council,” said Senokoatsane.
He stated that Hantise and Mphatwe accompanied Lazarus to fetch his brother and bring him before the tribal council for questioning.
“On the way (to the council), Hantise and Mphatwe told Lazarus to stop the vehicle, after which they assaulted Itumeleng with an iron pole. They tied him to a tree at the tribal council office and they proceeded to assault him with a sjambok.”
Senokoatsane said that Itumeleng begged the accused to stop assaulting him and confessed to selling the phone in Kuruman.
“At one point Itumeleng passed out while he was being assaulted and he was released into the care of his brother. Shortly after leaving the tribal council office, Itumeleng died in his brother’s vehicle.”
Senokoatsane indicated that Lazarus conspired to lie to the police regarding the nature of his brother’s death.
“State prosecutor Bernice Bronkhorst highlighted the brutality that was used in the murder, where the accused had resorted to jungle justice.
“During sentencing, the regional court pointed out that the tribal council was acting unlawfully as it had no authority to interrogate or punish any person. Any brave tribal council member should know that they are playing with fire.
“The court found that the accused acted in common purpose in the commission of the crime. The court also found that Lazarus passively stood by when his brother was brutally killed.”
Senokoatsane said the accused were sentenced to 15 years’ direct imprisonment and added that they were also declared unfit to possess a firearm.