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Maqubela sentence too lenient: Witness

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The sentences a social worker recommended for convicted killer Thandi Maqubela may be seen as too lenient and bring the administration of justice into disrepute, the Western Cape High Court heard on Tuesday.

“I certainly think that it would challenge whether the administration of justice is working,” social worker Arina Smit said when asked about her recommendations for a wholly suspended sentence or periodic imprisonment.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Bonnie Currie-Gamwo had asked Smit, a defence witness, how society and the family of slain acting judge Patrick Maqubela would feel about the sentences.

Smit had said the sentences would not be seen as favourable because human beings wanted to see another being punished.

Judge John Murphy asked whether he could impose such sentences if it rocked faith in the justice system.

“No, that is not possible,” Smit conceded.

She said she had recommended the sentences because she wanted to challenge society’s perceptions of how rehabilitation could take place.

Murphy asked if she was an advocate for alternative sentencing. She replied that she was an advocate for a person’s potential.

In November 2013 (CORRECT), the same court found Maqubela guilty of killing her husband in June 2009, despite not having conclusive medical evidence pinpointing a cause of death.

She was found guilty of forging her husband’s will and committing fraud by causing potential prejudice to his estate.

Currie-Gamwo asked what prison sentence the social worker had thought of when recommending it be wholly suspended.

Smit replied that she was looking at 15 years in jail, wholly suspended, with Maqubela attending therapy for dealing with her trauma.

Currie-Gamwo said a person could not benefit from therapy if they refused to acknowledge they were guilty of the crimes.

Asked how she envisioned the periodical imprisonment, Smit took some time to answer and Murphy noted it seemed she had not really thought it through.

Smit said this sentence would see Maqubela serve a total of 83 days in prison over at least 15 years, which worked out to five or six days in prison a year.

She acknowledged that society might see this as too lenient and then recommended that correctional supervision might be an option.

Currie-Gamwo said should the court find that the minimum sentences for murder and fraud applied, her recommended sentences would fall by the wayside in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.

The prosecutor concluded that the court could thus not rely on her recommendations because they were flawed, she had made grave omissions and her report had focused solely on the needs of the accused.

During re-examination, Thomas Tyler, for Maqubela, reiterated that Smit had only had a week to compile her report.

Smit emphasised that Maqubela posed no physical danger to society and would only potentially be a hazard if in an intimate marital relationship similar to the one she had in the past.

Final sentencing arguments will be heard on Thursday. SAPA

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