How do you rehabilitate a person in denial‚ asks judge in Sandile Mantsoe’s case

03 May 2018 - 15:10 By Naledi Shange
Sandile Mantsoe at the South Gauteng High Court on May 3 2018. He was sentenced to more than 30 years in jail for the murder of Karabo Mokoena.
Sandile Mantsoe at the South Gauteng High Court on May 3 2018. He was sentenced to more than 30 years in jail for the murder of Karabo Mokoena.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

It became evident prior to the delivery of sentence that acting judge Peet Johnson intended to not show any mercy to Karabo Mokoena's killer‚ Sandile Mantsoe.

Johnson on Thursday handed Mantsoe a three-decade-long jail term for assault and murder as well as disposing of Mokoena's body.

Prior to this‚ Mantsoe's lawyer‚ Victor Simelane‚ had fought tooth and nail to get Mantsoe the minimum prescribed sentence of 15 years‚ saying there were different programmes in prison could help him come to terms with his actions and to accept what happened.

“It is clear that the accused can still contribute immensely to society. I am aware that he has been found guilty of murder but even so‚ I urge this court to assist the accused because he does need assistance‚” said Simelane.

He referred the court to the case of Thandi Maqubela who was found guilty of murdering her husband‚ acting judge Patrick Maqubela.

Johnson‚ however‚ said that case could not be taken into consideration because Maqubela’s sentence and conviction for murder were later overturned.

She had been accused of orchestrating the murder of her husband who was found suffocated in June 2009.

Simelane said the matters were similar as they both involved couples who were in love but had issues.

But Johnson posed an important question to Simelane.

“How do you rehabilitate a person that is in denial?” he asked.

Simelane tried his best to answer the question‚ saying there were plenty of prison programmes that could help Mantsoe realize his crime.

“After some time‚ it actually sinks in and the person is able to later meet with the family‚ sit down with them and apologise‚” he said‚ adding that this type of denial was not uncommon.

“The denial is not something which will prevail throughout.”

“But how do you know?” Johnson quizzed‚ saying he could not speculate what would happen in future and whether Mantsoe will eventually be remorseful.

“Is it not fair to say that the deceased was in a position of trust to the accused? He broke her trust when he killed her‚” Johnson pressed on.

Simelane‚ however‚ said Mantsoe and the woman he had murdered had both been in need of some lifestyle guidance.

Both parties had lived an alcohol-fuelled club-frequenting life.

“What does lifestyle have to do with the intent to kill?” Johnson asked.

“We don’t actually know those last moments and what happened‚” Simelane replied.

“But the accused knows what happened... He chose not to take this court into its confidence‚” Johnson replied.

Johnson on Wednesday convicted Mantsoe of assaulting and killing Mokoena‚ whose charred remains were found in ditch in Lyndhurst last year.

Mantsoe had pleaded not guilty‚ admitting to only disposing of her body.

He maintained that he returned home to find that she had committed suicide by stabbing herself in the neck.

Eventually‚ Johnson said he believed there were no mitigating circumstances for him to give Mantsoe a lenient sentence.