LUSAKA High Court Judge Mwila Kombe has sentenced a 25-year-old man of Matero township to seven years’ imprisonment with hard labour for causing the death of a suspected gasser earlier this year after he joined a mob in beating up the deceased.
Judge Kombe said it is not up to members of the public to decide on the guilt of any wrongdoer, adding that if the convict had any reason to suspect that the deceased was involved in some criminal activities, his role was to apprehend him and hand him over to the police.
In this matter, Christopher Sheleni was charged with manslaughter and he pleaded guilty.
Sheleni was alleged to have caused the death of Emmanuel Maibwe.
He was convicted last Thursday by Judge Kombe.
The matter came up yesterday for a sentencing.
Passing sentence, Judge Kombe said that she had considered the mitigation and that Sheleni was a first offender, who had admitted the charge of manslaughter and, therefore, deserved leniency from the Court.
She, however, said the offence of manslaughter was very serious and that the maximum sentence provided for in the law was life imprisonment.
“The Court has power to sentence the convict up to life imprisonment depending on the circumstances of the case,” Judge Kombe said.
She noted that the deceased died after Sheleni joined the mob in beating him using kicks and fists because he (Sheleni) just heard that the deceased was administering toxic substances in residential areas.
“Now this kind of behaviour or action where you decided to take the law into your own hands just because you suspected the deceased to have committed an offence cannot be justified no matter what the circumstances were,” Judge Kombe said.
She said it was not up to members of the public to decide on the guilt of any wrongdoer.
Judge Kombe said if Sheleni had any reason to suspect that the deceased was involved in some criminal activities, his role as a member of the public was to apprehend him and hand him over to the police.
She added that the mob action was inhumane, and that they should have allowed the due process of the law to take its course.
“There are some people out there, who feel when they suspect someone to have committed an offence, they can just descend on that person, who they believe has committed an offence. That will lead to lawlessness,” Judge Kombe said.
She sentenced Sheleni to seven years’ imprisonment with hard labour with effect from date of arrest on March 30, 2020.
Facts in this matter were that on February 16, this year, Sheleni was at his house in Matero Township of Lusaka when he heard a crowd of people making noise outside.
Sheleni heard the crowd chanting that they had caught a person that was administering toxic substances in residential areas, commonly called a gasser.
Sheleni went out of his house and found a mob had gathered near Hillside ground and had surrounded Maibwe, the deceased.
Persons in the crowd began beating the deceased with kicks and fists and he joined the lynching.
Around the same time, the police at Matero Police Station were alerted and arrived at the scene.
They fired warning shots in the air to disperse the crowd and apprehended Sheleni as he was fleeing the scene.
The deceased was rushed to Matero Level-One hospital where he passed on as the result of the beatings.
In mitigation by his lawyer from Legal Aid Board Wina Vukovic, the convict said during the period he had been in incarceration, he had ample time to reflect on his actions, which contributed to a loss of life.
He added that this fact will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Sheleni said he had a five-year-old girl whom he helps to support and also lived with his elderly grandmother and auntie.