Lives are cheap in South Africa, it seems, after the man found guilty of stabbing lesbian Noxolo Mabona Klaas (also known as Xakeka) to death was sentenced to an effective eight years in jail.
On Thursday, Bongile Joni pleaded guilty to Klaas’s murder in the Strand Magistrates’ Regional Court.
Magistrate Franselien Mouton sentenced him to 12 years in prison, with four years suspended, effectively handing Joni an eight-year sentence.
Klaas (23), known informally by many as Noxie, was stabbed to death at a New Year’s Day party in Strand, near Cape Town. Activists told MambaOnline at the time that it was believed that she had become the focus of anti-LGBTIQ abuse from Joni at the event.
According to GroundUp, Joni admitted on Thursday to having “unlawfully murdered the deceased by stabbing her with a knife” at a shebeen. He said he was initially stabbed with a bottle by Klaas when he intervened in an altercation between her and his brother.
Joni admitted to later returning to confront Klaas and then stabbing her in the neck and chest. “I was mad she didn’t seem sorry for what she did,” he said.
He rejected, however, allegations that the murder had anything to do with her sexuality. The prosecutor said that Klaas’s girlfriend had confirmed that the two had usually got along. “It was never the intention of the accused to murder the deceased because of her sexual orientation,” he said. The magistrate also agreed that this was not a hate crime.
The light sentence was reportedly due to the murder being Joni’s first offence and because he pleaded guilty, showed remorse and paid R8,000 towards Klaas’s funeral costs. Joni also accompanied the woman to the hospital when he realised the seriousness of what he had done.
Sharon Cox, Health & Support Services Manager at Triangle Project, which has monitored the case, said the fact that Klaas was the first to attack Joni also played a role in the sentence. Witnesses further recounted that Joni had in fact not made any anti-LGBTIQ comments against Klaas during the altercation, although these may have been made by others involved.
Cox told MambaOnline that while the case was indeed complex, the outcome was nevertheless disheartening and too much of a deviation from the minimum sentencing guidelines for murder. This was a feeling, she added, that was shared by Klaas’s family.
“If one considers that it’s an effective eight year sentence and that a third of that sentence is [likely to be] served, then human life is really cheap,” Cox commented.
While mitigating and aggravating factors should be considered in these cases, this sentence was too light, she said. “People serve longer sentences for being in possession of weed or for stealing a chicken from Shoprite. So I feel really disappointed.”