The Mpumalanga High Court sitting in Graskop has recently handed down a landmark judgment, convicting and sentencing four men from Mkhuhlu near Hazyview to life imprisonment each for the brutal murder and kidnapping of Sikhumbuzo Sikhumbane in July 2022.
The accused, Evidence Nkuna, Kriel Khoza, Christ Zwane, and Prayer Mdluli, were found guilty of premeditated murder and two counts of kidnapping.
This tragic incident unfolded when Sikhumbane, who was suspected of stealing a laptop belonging to Nkuna’s relative, was taken by Nkuna to a local tavern in an attempt to confront him. Little did Sikhumbane know that this confrontation would turn deadly. Inside the tavern, an altercation broke out between Nkuna and Sikhumbane over the stolen laptop, leading Nkuna to involve his co-accused.
As the men continued to drink, tensions escalated, and Nkuna approached his co-accused to assist in restraining Sikhumbane. They proceeded to tie his legs and hands with an electric wire and forcibly loaded him into Nkuna’s vehicle. Determined to exact their own brand of justice, they also kidnapped Thandeka Siyenga, a witness to this horrific crime.
Driving to a secluded area near Sabie Dam, the accused continued to assault Sikhumbane mercilessly. Armed with a sjambok, they repeatedly struck him, while also resorting to punches and kicks. Throughout this ordeal, Siyenga was forced to bear witness to the unimaginable brutality inflicted upon Sikhumbane.
Arriving at Sabie River, the perpetrators callously left Siyenga behind and proceeded to remove Sikhumbane from the car’s trunk, callously throwing him into the river. The heartbroken mother of Sikhumbane reported him missing, and a search was launched. Tragically, it was during this search that the lifeless body of Sikhumbane was discovered in Sabie River.
An intensive police investigation led to the arrest of the four accused, who pleaded not guilty in court. However, the state relied on compelling circumstantial evidence, including the testimony of Siyenga, who bravely recounted the horrors she had witnessed. A photo album depicting Sikhumbane’s bound body and a postmortem report confirming his cause of death as drowning and blunt force injury to the head were admitted as crucial pieces of evidence.
After careful consideration, Judge Kgoele found all four accused guilty of murder and two counts of kidnapping. In delivering the sentencing, State Advocate Tsotetsi highlighted the heinous nature of the crime and stressed the importance of sending a clear message that such offenses cannot be tolerated in our society.
Consequently, the court sentenced each accused to life imprisonment for murder and five years imprisonment for each count of kidnapping. This landmark judgment serves as a stark reminder that vigilantism has no place in our society and that we must allow the law to take its course.