Top jazz musician Duduzile Manhenga committed a serious crime which resulted in the death of a road user.
The Standard Editorial
The law took its course and sentenced her to an effective 18 months in jail.
But then, as they say, the law is an ass.
Manhenga committed the crime in March 2010, that is, more than three years ago. In the period between the commission of the crime and her sentencing, she has carried on with her profession as a singer, has gone on foreign tours and has raised her children and cared for her husband in an exemplary manner.
She has not re-offended. In court last week she showed contrition and did not waste the court’s time; she pleaded guilty.
If she had been tried quickly, she would have by now served her sentence and probably repaired her career and continued from where she left it.
But for more than three years she lived with the incident hanging over her like a sword.
According to the United Nations, imprisonment has several objectives. It keeps persons suspected of having committed a crime under secure control before their guilt or innocence is determined by a court.
It punishes offenders by depriving them of their liberty after they have been convicted of an offence. It keeps them from committing further crimes while they are in prison and, in theory, allows them to be rehabilitated during their period of imprisonment. The goal of rehabilitation is to address the underlying factors that led to criminal behaviour and by so doing, reducing the likelihood of re-offending.
What purpose does the sentence imposed on Manhenga serve? If it is meant to punish her, then it’s not only vindictive but also unfair, considering that justice was delayed for a considerable period.
Surely the incarceration cannot be aimed at rehabilitating her because she has already been rehabilitated, evidenced by her not committing a similar offence in the past three years and the exemplary life she has led.
Evidence, according to the UN, shows that prisons rarely rehabilitate, but tend to further criminalise individuals, leading to re-offending. Manhenga should be spared this.
A non-custodial sentence would have sufficed.