Eastern Cape man gets 18 years for torture and murder

10 October 2017 - 15:34
By Adrienne Carlisle
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

One of five men accused of viciously torturing and murdering a Grahamstown man they believed had stolen a laptop was today sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.

Siviwe Gqotholo‚ 30‚ hung his head as Grahamstown High Court Judge John Smith described the torture and murder of prominent former Rhodes student‚ writer and activist Thembelani Qwankanisa‚ 29‚ as brutal and callous in the extreme.

In his plea statement last month Gqotholo gave a graphic account of how he and four other men had last year over a prolonged period repeatedly beaten‚ burnt‚ and stabbed Qwankanisa‚ and poured boiling water down his throat to get him to confess to stealing the laptop of then third-year Rhodes student and citizen journalist Thembani Onceya.

Onceya‚ his two brothers Akhona and Simamkele‚ and friend Mzwanele Maki have pleaded not guilty to murdering Qwankanisa. They remain in jail pending their trial after being denied bail.

Their trial was separated from that of Gqotholo as he opted to plead guilty to his role in the brutal murder.

Qwankanisa’s ravaged body was found wrapped in a carpet and dumped in a local community dam.

Judge Smith said this type of violent and cruel crime came before the courts with alarming frequency and society expected courts to impose sentences which reflect its abhorrence with such violent conduct.

During the torture Qwankanisa’s teeth were also pulled out with pliers. He had been burnt with melted plastic and his genitals had been stapled. The Grahamstown community was outraged by the way in which Qwankanisa had been murdered and his body dumped.

Senior state advocate Heinz Obermeyer prosecuted while attorney Templeton Solani defended Gqotholo. The trial of the other four men will begin on December 4.